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Glacier Bay 

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Official National Park Handbook 

Glacier Bay 

A Guide to 

Glacier Bay National Park 

And Preserve, Alaska 

Produced by the 
Division of Publications 
National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 
Washington, D.C. 1983 

Using This Handbook 

The major attractions at Glacier Bay National Park 
and Preserve are the bay and its tidewater glaciers; 
the whales and other wildlife of land, sea, and air; 
the abrupt and massive Fairweather Range; and the 
vast unspoiled outer coast. Part 1 of this handbook 
briefly introduces the park and its history; Part 2 
takes a close look at the dynamics of tidewater 
glaciers and the natural history of both bay and 
landscape; and Part 3 presents concise travel guide 
and reference materials. 

National Park Handbooks, compact introductions to 
the great natural and historic places administered by 
the National Park Service, are published to support 
the National Park Service's management programs 
at the parks and to promote understanding and 
enjoyment of the parks. Each is intended to be 
informative reading and a useful guide before, 
during, and after a park visit. More than 100 titles 
are in print. This is Handbook 123. 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

Main entry under title: 

Glacier Bay: a guide to Glacier Bay National 

Park and Preserve, Alaska. 

(National park handbook; 123) 

Bibliography: p. Includes index. I 29.9/5:123 

1. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve 

(Alaska) — Guide-books. I. United States. National 

Park Service. Division of Publications. II. Series: 

Handbook (United States. National Park Service. 

Division of Publications); 123. 

F912.G5G57 1983 917.98'2 83-600088 

ISBN 0-912627-17-4 


Part 2 


Welcome to Glacier Bay 4 

The Gem of Alaska's Inside Passage 7 

OfTlmeandice 22 

by Ruth Kirk 

Tidewater Glaciers 25 

Galloping, Calving, Advancing, Retreating 37 
Post-Glacier Plant Succession 53 
"So Far As Known" 69 
The Only Constant Is Change 87 

Guide and Adviser 1 04 

Coastal Map 106 
Topical Reference 107 
Park and Preserve Map 108 

Index 126 

B ■ \^SM 







>lmpome to Glacier Bay 

:< ^.. -;■«•.• .- 

The Gem of Alaska's 
Inside Passage 

A hiker packs through a lush 
meadow high above Tidal 
Inlet, about halfway up Gla- 
cier Bay. Since John Muir's 
day, the bay has attracted 
thousands of travelers, most 
of them waterborne. Part 1 
of this handbook recounts 
the Glacier Bay travel tradi- 
tion, from early explorations 
and scientific expeditions to 
the first tourists on steam- 
ships. Great cruise ships to- 
day ply the bay, introducing 
its wonders to travelers. 
Others come by air and by 
private water craft. 

Pages 4-5: The serene bay 
surface may burst open to 
emit a 35-ton acrobatic hump- 
back whale, or a towering 
wall of glacier ice may calve 
off stupendous icebergs. The 
unexpected pleasures of 
Glacier Bay and Southeast 
Alaska are nearlv limitless. 

Alaska's Glacier Bay confronts us with a mad jumble 
of paradoxes. Attempts to describe it juxtapose 
references to thunderous booming of ice and 
overwhelming silence. The landscape rests both 
brashly new and bedrock old, at once eternal and 
transitory, everlasting and ephemeral. The ice sheets 
lock up climatic history while rewriting today's 
topography. The crushing magnitude contrasts with 
the uncanny finesse of staged plant recovery. It is as 
though two worlds were unrolling like the ends of a 
scroll— ice receding and vegetation advancing. Might 
there not be a seam between these two worlds, one 
wonders, some extra-dimensional passage? No. Both 
are but landscapes and timescapes of our own one 

John Muir came here in 1879 pursuing the reality 
of what he had earlier tracked as a mere ghost 
throughout California's High Sierra. He had trekked 
the California highcountry to find telltale etchings 
of massive glaciation, wishing to demonstrate the 
then novel and religiously disruptive glaciation 
theories of Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz. In Glacier 
Bay country, just below the shoulder of Alaska's 
south-reaching coastal arm, Muir trekked the real 
thing in action. He contemplated landscapes newly 
emerged from the Little Ice Age, a geologically 
recent winter's night that had lasted some ten 
centuries. Muir knew: At Glacier Bay you can get 
lost both in space and in time. 

Muir's letters to the San Francisco Bulletin news- 
paper attracted Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore to Glacier 
Bay. "Steaming slowly up the inlet, the bold, cliff- 
like front of the glacier grew in height as we ap- 
proached it," she wrote on her second trip in 1885, 
"and there was a sense of awe as the ship drew near 
enough for us to hear the strange, continual rum- 
bling of the subterranean or subglacial waters, and 
see the avalanches of ice that, breaking from the 
front, rushed down into the sea with tremendous 



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What color are black bears? 
The question is not a riddle. 
They have three color phases: 
black, brown, and cinnamon. 
Black bears frequent forests 
of the lower bay. The much 
larger brown/ grizzly bears 
are more common in inlets 
up bay. 

Pages 8-9: Kayakers contem- 
plate the spray-strewn after- 
math of a monumental calving 
spree at Muir Glacier Taken 
with a telephoto lens, this 
photo makes it look like the 
kayakers are closer to the 
glacier than they are. Never 
approach one of these gla- 
ciers closer than a half mile. 

Pages 10-11: Marge rie Gla- 
cier, in the Fairweather 
Range, carries a massive 
debris load gathered from its 
tributary glaciers. 

crashes and roars." Despite the whales, despite the 
seals, despite the stupendous coastal mountain 
scenery, it is first and foremost the stark drama of 
tidewater glaciers that makes Glacier Bay the gem of 
southeastern Alaska's protected coastal sea lane 
known as the Inside Passage. "Words and dry figures 
can give one little idea of this glacial torrent," 
Scidmore wrote, "... the beauty of the fantastic ice 
front, shimmering with all the prismatic hues, is 
beyond imagery or description." Her first glimpse of 
Muir Glacier had reduced her to silence. Today, 
thousands of people visit Glacier Bay each summer. 
Most come by cruise ship, others fly into nearby 
Gustavus, or directly to the park in charter 
aircraft. The park's Fairweather and other mountain 
ranges are perhaps the world's most spectacularly 
glaciated. The bay itself is home to seals, porpoises, 
whales, and countless species of fish and inverte- 
brates. Its shores are dotted with birdlife, with bears, 
and with mountain goats. 

Recorded history as we generally credit it had 
begun for the Glacier Bay area nearly 150 years 
before Muir's coming. The log of the Russian packet 
boat St. Paul, commanded by Alexis Tchirikov, 
records for July 15, 1741: "This must be America, 
judging by the latitude and longitude." Tchirikov 
had sighted the Fairweather Range. The next day his 
compatriot Vitus Bering sighted land north of here 
and named Mt. St. Elias. Bering's name survives as a 
sea, a strait, and as a former land bridge between Rus- 
sia and what is now Alaska. Tchirikov's log book 
survived the voyage; Tchirikov did not. 

Actually, the Fairweather Range of mountains was 
not so named until 1778, when James Cook, com- 
manding His Majesty's sloop, Resolution, sailed into 
the area. For the next several years, assorted Rus- 
sians and Aleuts lured by sea otters visited, but no 
records survive. Then in 1786 Frenchman Jean Francois 
de Galaup, comte de La Perouse, put into what 
is now Lituya Bay. Tlingit Indian legend records 
La Perouse's visit, calling him Yealth. He man- 
aged to "purchase" Cenotaph Island from one Tlingit 
chief, leaving a medallion and records to that effect 
stashed in rocks there; these either remain 
undiscovered or were destroyed by later Russian or 
other visitors. He spent 27 days in Lituya Bay, and 
his log book describes in detail both Tlingits and the 


surrounding gigantic wilderness. Not least, he de- 
scribes a calving berg: "A fragment of ice, which fell 
into the water near half a mile off, occasioned such a 
swell along the shore, that my boat was upset, and 
thrown to some distance on the border of the 
glacier. This accident was soon repaired, and we 
returned on board. . . .'' Mt. La Perouse and the 
magnificent La Perouse Glacier on the park's outer 
coast inscribe this Frenchman's name here. 

By the time of La Perouse and Cook, explorers 
were plying the American Northwest Coast fueled 
by a rich mixture of greed and geographic 
misinformation. They sought the mythic Northwest 
Passage, that supposed navigable route across North 
America to a lucrative China trade. Imagine then 
their disappointment to confront staggering glacial 
blockades walling off progress inland so immediately 
after they quit the open Pacific. 

The number of discrete tidewater glaciers has 
increased significantly since Lieutenant Whidbey 
from Capt. George Vancouver's ship Discovery spied 
what would become Glacier Bay from Icy Strait on 
Vancouver's expedition in 1794. Simply put, the 
entire bay was at that time one mighty ice sheet 
almost to its mouth. 

If Eliza Scidmore was one of Glacier Bay's first 
tourists, she was soon succeeded by more tourists 
and glaciologists and plant ecologists, too. Specta- 
cles of nature abound throughout most of Alaska, 
but in Glacier Bay you can still step right off the 
Little Ice Age and walk across nearly two centuries 
of plant succession, seeing how ice-scoured land 
recovers by stages to mature coastal forest. Glacier 
Bay offered glaciologists and plant ecologists a com- 
pact natural laboratory of time and space too good 
to pass up. "Discovered" in 1879, prominent by 1884, 
world famous by 1886, the Muir Glacier that Scidmore 
saw would next be unattainable by tourists. An 
earthquake rocked the Alaskan coast at 12:20 p.m. 
on September 10, 1899. Within hours. Glacier Bay 
was a mass of impenetrable floating ice. The glacier's 
terminus was devastated by the quake and went into 
rapid retreat. For the next few years ships could 
generally get within only 8 kilometers (5 miles) 
of the Muir Ice front. This cataclysmic change 
marked the end of the era of description for Glacier 
Bay. The era of explanation then began, and contin- 


ues today, as Ruth Kirk testifies in Part 2 of this 

Several Glacier Bay facts amply demonstrate the 
rapid, massive changes here: Tchirikov could not 
have entered Glacier Bay in 1741 because it was a 
vast ice sheet. Captain Vancouver found Icy Strait 
much choked with ice in 1794, and Glacier Bay was 
a mere dent in the shoreline then. Yet by 1879 John 
Muir found that the sometimes 1,200-meter- (4,000- 
foot) thick mantle of ice had retreated 77 kilometers 
(48 miles) up the bay. By 1916 the Grand Pacific 
Glacier stood 105 kilometers (65 miles) from the 
mouth of Glacier Bay. This rapid pace of glacial 
retreat on this large scale is known nowhere else in 
the world. This central fact, plus its exemplification 
of plant succession, great natural beauty, and value 
to marine mammals and other wildlife, inspired the 
move to protect Glacier Bay. 

The Ecological Society of America, with the 
impetus of William S. Cooper who had studied the 
plant succession and relict forests, in 1923 recom- 
mended that a national monument be established at 
Glacier Bay. Five reasons were enumerated: the 
tidewater glaciers; other scientific features, includ- 
ing ancient forest remnants; the coastal forests; the 
historical associations since Vancouver's time; and 
the relative accessibility to travel, compared with 
other tidewater glacier areas. The Society recom- 
mended a national monument because such areas 
could be established by Presidential proclamation, 
whereas national parks could be created only by 
Congress. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge or- 
dered the temporary withdrawal of one million 
hectares (2.5 million acres), and in 1925 he pro- 
claimed the Glacier Bay National Monument. All 
seemed well. 

Local agitation for opening the area to mining 
followed, however, and in 1936 a bill to do just this 
was quickly approved by Congress two days before 
its adjournment for the Democratic National 
Convention. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt 
signed it three days later. Conservationists who had 
worked two years for the monument's establishment 
with mining excluded were shocked. 

With support from the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, the monument boundary was enlarged 
significantly in 1939. Again because of local pressure 



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Pages 16-17: The Fair- 
weather Range 5 Mount 
Bertha wears soft hues of 
morning light. The Fair- 
weathers rise abruptly from 
tidewater, walling the bay !$■ 
western shore. 

Pages 18-19: A big hump- 
back whale outweighs eight 
African elephants. Curious, 
friendly, and playful, this 
mysteriously intelligent and 
talkative whale is an endan- 
gered species. 

however, the boundary was reduced somewhat in 
1955. Another large addition to the monument was 
made in 1978. In 1980, Congress redesignated the 
area Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The 
national park now includes some 1.3 million hec- 
tares (3.2 million acres) and the national preserve 
some 23,000 hectares (57,000 acres). The national 
park portion is closed to mining, of course, and 
much of it is further protected as part of the National 
Wilderness Preservation System. These management 
distinctions are explained in Part 3 of this handbook. 

The 1930s mining flap unwittingly centered about 
an indefatigable prospector named Joe Ibach. He 
put ashore at Ptarmigan Creek, northwest of Reid 
Glacier, in the early summer of 1925. Nearby Ibach 
hit gold-bearing veins and staked them, registering 
them later that summer. So began a three-decade 
association with Reid Inlet for Joe and his wife, Muz, 
just as, on the other side of the continent, the fight 
for establishing the monument was just grinding 
toward resolution. 

The Ibachs' gold operations, in association first 
with Capt. Tom Smith and later with novelist Rex 
Beach, never amounted to anything. One season's 
yield was enough to cover the smelting work in 
Juneau, but not the freight, for which the smelter 
billed Ibach and Smith! The next year was more 
profitable. After all was said and done, Joe and Muz 
netted $13 and Smith netted $13. At that, the latter 
threw in his pick and sledge. Beach never realized 
anything from mining here. 

The cabin that still stands at the entrance to Reid 
Inlet was built by the Ibachs about 1940 and Muz 
soon put in the vegetable garden with dirt hauled in 
ore sacks from Lemesurier Island. Three spruces, 
also imports, were planted there far ahead of their 
ecological time, since the Reid Glacier was then less 
than 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. Captain Smith 
recounts that Joe and Muz had agreed that if one of 
the couple died while they were in the wilds together, 
the other would die right away. "I think I would feel 
the same way," Smith reflected, "if I had lived out 
there all that time with a wife." The Ibachs' last year 
together at Reid Inlet was 1956. Muz died in Juneau's 
St. Ann's Hospital in 1959. Joe died in 1960, still 
planning to visit Reid Inlet. The morning after 
planning his return, Joe shot himself. At the bottom 


of his will, written on brown wrapping paper, Joe 
had added: 'There's a time to Hve and a time to die. 
This is the time." The unconscious ambiguity some- 
how sits well in this terrain of paradoxes. 

Of all Glacier Bay's extremely few residents since 
Indian days, perhaps only Joe and Muz Ibach and 
Jim Huscroft stand out. Huscroft lived alone on 
Cenotaph Island in Lituya Bay from 1915 or 1917 to 
1939, when he died there, still alone. He was the only 
outer coast resident for a 240-kilometer (150-mile) 
stretch. Once a year he went to Juneau for supplies 
and to pick up the past year's stack of newspapers, 
saved for him at the Elks Club. Back home on the 
island, he read one paper a day, a year late, never 
cheating by reading ahead one day. Huscroft's big- 
gest yearly event was Christmas dinner. He sat down 
to it alone with 14 kinds of homemade pie! 

The paucity of human neighbors for Huscroft 
suggests how vast this untrammeled landscape is. 
The designated wilderness inside the park and pre- 
serve is larger than Yellowstone National Park. Since 
1986, Glacier Bay has been part of a far larger 
international Biosphere Reserve, and, since 1992, 
part of the larger still Wrangell-St. Elias National 
Park and Kluane National Park (Canada) World 
Heritage Site— now at 24 million acres the world's 
largest internationally protected area. One glacier in 
it is larger than Rhode Island. The scale of wildness 
suffices to nurture unfettered the dynamics of the 
more-than-human world and to preserve intact these 
landscapes of our continent's human origins. Wilder- 
ness and culture are but parts of a larger grammar here. 

There must be profound satisfaction in venturing, 
as Eliza Scidmore did, to such an area as Glacier Bay 
so early in its tourist history. Indeed, after describing 
the Muir ice front and "the crack of the rending ice, 
the crash of the falling fragments" with their steady 
undertone like the boom of Yosemite Falls, Scidmore 
adds this note: "There was something, too, in the 
consciousness that so few had ever gazed upon the 
scene before us, and there were neither guides nor 
guide books to tell us which way to go, and what 
emotions to feel." Those words appear, paradoxically, 
in her illustrated guidebook. Journeys in Alaska, 
issued the very next summer. We hope this Glacier 
Bay handbook serves you as well as hers served a 
generation of Alaskan travelers. 


Part 2 

Of Time 


Tidewater Glaciers 

Ice research vessel Growler 
rests in Johns Hopkins Inlet. 
Author Ruth Kirk traveled 
aboard with glaciologists for 
one of her many Glacier Bay 
trips. In Part 2 of this hand- 
book she recounts her travels, 
the dynamics of tidewater 
glaciers, and the park 's natu- 
ral history. Depth readings 
made aboard Growler and 
^Qvgy-h\i— hanging astern on 
davits— are interpreted for 
you by the illustration on 
pages 46 and 47. 

Pages 22-23: Pan ice simmers 
golden in low sun on Johns 
Hopkins Inlet. 

In a small way, I once touched time. It was July and 
my husband, Louis, and I were camped in Reid Inlet, 
an exquisite fjord fingering off Glacier Bay's main, 
upper waterway. Our tent was pitched near a 1940s 
gold miner's shack, which that summer was serving 
as headquarters for park ranger Ole Wik and his wife, 
Manya. Rock peaks and ridges walled our horizon. 
At the inlet's head a glacier tongue calved icebergs 
directly into saltwater. From basketball to Detroit 
limousine size, these ice chunks rode the currents 
and stranded ashore on each outgoing tide, making 
the beach a sculpture garden. Manya lugged small 
stranded bergs home in pails hung from a shoulder 
yoke. The ice turned a pit dug in the coarse upper 
beach gravel into an icebox. 

One evening, the Wiks and Louis and I decided to 
make ice cream in an old hand-crank freezer. Out 
from the pit came fresh eggs, which Manya mixed 
with powdered milk dissolved in creek water and 
sweetened with honey. Ole and Louis chipped sal- 
vaged bergs and packed the ice fragments into the 
freezer. We turned the crank till it would turn no 
more and then spooned out the ice cream. 

Icebergs floated on the tide just offshore. We sat 
reveling in the 11 p.m. sunset and feasting on the ice 
cream. A cormorant, its sleek body and upright neck 
a dark silhouette against the water's pink tint, rode 
one berg. New bergs sporadically broke from the 
glacier, their birthing thunder a syncopation for the 
evening's hush. Ole mused aloud on our having used 
the iceberg's cold to freeze our ice cream. Indeed, 
for the ice this concluded unknown decades of an 
existence begun as fluffy snow that was then com- 
pressed to ice, owing to the sheer weight of snow 
accumulating above it. 

By the Grand Pacific Glacier: Reid Inlet ice 
cream comes to mind now, four Julys later, as I cook 
breakfast aboard R.V. Growler, a U.S. Geological 
Survey ice research boat. Oatmeal bubbles on the 


galley's oil range as I set out the corn muffins I've 
baked. The big galley table is at once workbench, 
library desk, and center for food preparation, eating, 
and socializing. 

Five of us are aboard. In charge is glaciologist 
Austin Post— tall, strong, with a grizzled beard that 
hangs to his chest and gentle eyes that laugh. His 
assistants, college-age, capable, enthusiastic, are Da- 
vid Janka, Emily Chase, and Austin's son Charles 
Post. My role is as observer and photographer. 

For two hours we've been taking depth readings in 
front of Tarr Inlet's Grand Pacific Glacier. Its ice, 
along with that of the Margerie Glacier, blocks the 
extreme upper end of Glacier Bay. Data recorded by 
Growler's electronic sounder will make it possible to 
chart the bottom contours here. The contours will 
help in understanding tidewater ice, which responds 
to various factors aside from climate. Why, for 
example, is the Grand Pacific Glacier advancing, 
while just to the east, the Muir Glacier has been 
rapidly retreating for a century? What accounts for 
such diverse behavior in the same area? 

Glacier ice today whitens a tenth of the world's 
land surface, as much as is now farmed. A few 
thousand years ago glaciers covered triple this area, 
as they someday surely will again. Boston's Bunker 
Hill is a drumlin left behind by glacier ice. Erratic 
boulders dot Manhattan's Central Park, transported 
from Canada by glacier ice. Duck hunters in Minne- 
sota set decoys on pothole lakes formed by melting 
ice remnants. Plains farmers grow wheat in loess, 
windblown glacial sediment. French vineyards are 
also in loess. Drink French wine and you toast the 
Ice Age. Yet despite the magnitude and recurrence 
of glaciers, knowledge of them is little more than 
well begun. Glacier Bay is one of the widely recog- 
nized field laboratories for glaciology. 

Growler is in Glacier Bay as part of a continuing 
study of tidewater ice. Austin Post can visualize 
these ice tongues and how they behave. For 20 years 
he has been making aerial photographs of glaciers 
from the Andes to the Aleutians and painstakingly 
mapping their changes. Austin does not merely 
rejoice to know that the world is not only blue and 
green but also white. He prefers the white. When I 
came aboard Growler, he asked me about the weather 
in Seattle. "Sunny and hot," I said. 'That's awfully 


hard on the ice," Austin muttered in reply. 

At the wheel Austin is now maneuvering Growler 
through floating icebergs. They aren't packed solid 
this morning and we can work to within one-third 
kilometer (1,000 feet) of the Grand Pacific's ice face. 
We won't go closer because of danger from falling 
ice, but we'll send a small, radio-controlled skiff to 
bump against the glacier snout and read the water 
depth there. The glacier front is not floating. It rests 
on a rubble ridge of its own making. Emily, Dave, 
and Chuck are with Austin in the wheelhouse, 
correlating Growler's precise position with the depth- 
sounder record and with Polaroid pictures of the 
radar scope. I can be spared to cook, but everyone 
else is needed for the readings. It's 0800 now. We've 
been underway since 0630, and we will soon cut the 
engine to drift with the floating ice and eat breakfast. 

A moment ago we were swept off course by a melt 
torrent draining from under the glacier. No depth 
reading registered until we worked free of its flow, 
because the stream disgorges so much suspended 
mineral material that the signal from our depth 
sounder dispersed instead of striking bottom and 
bouncing back. Even the water surface is gray with 
glacial flour, bedrock ground to powder by the 
pressure of moving ice. Away from the ice front the 
gray becomes turquoise as the silt mutes but no 
longer dominates the clear, deep blue of open water. 
Often distinct color bands persist, their moire pat- 
tern maintained by the water's different tempera- 
tures and saHnities. Such banding may reach all the 
way to Icy Strait, 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the 
nearest tidewater glaciers. We terrestrials think of 
seawater as homogeneous. It's not. 

Nor is a glacier just a mass of frozen water. It is 
ice, plus flowing water, plus a vast amount of rock 
debris scoured, rasped, and plucked from the moun- 
tains where glaciers are born and from the valley 
walls and bottoms they inch across en route 
downslope. In the color banding of a fjord's water 
surface you witness the sedimentation process that 
in time fills in enormious submarine troughs and 
turns waterways into valleys with freshwater streams 
and wildflowers. 

Out Growler's porthole the far side of the Margerie 
Glacier is so blackened with rubble that it looks like 
rock. Only a melt sheen identifies it from this 


distance as glacier ice. Directly ahead of us, mo- 
raines of rock debris streak the length of the Grand 
Pacific Glacier like ribbons. At the sides of the ice 
face they show as tilted layers dipping into the water. 
Moraines form as rock tumbles and slides from 
steepened slopes onto the glacier surface, there to 
ride the ice and eventually break free as part of an 
iceberg, or to be released by melt. Moraines are 
among the legacies of glaciation. They form abrupt 
ridges of loose rock, gravel, and sand often several- 
score meters high and extending for long distances. 
Though in time moraines may become upholstered 
with plants, their origin remains easily recognizable. 

When mineral debris is dropped directly beneath 
a glacier it may form hills and short ridges known as 
kames and drumlins, or, if deposited by a subglacial 
stream, as eskers. Last evening we anchored Growler 
a half-hour's run south of the Margerie ice front, 
then hiked up a side drainage and sat at dusk 
watching a loon paddle across a small lake impounded 
by an esker. Slices of time seemed separated from 
eternity's flow and laid before us. We had walked 
through a carpet of dryas plants shaggy with 
seedheads. Dryas can pioneer poor soil and so can 
quickly form a green aftermath of glacier ice. We 
had hoped to find glacio-marine clay— lumps dropped, 
usually, from floating icebergs— remnants from mil- 
lennia ago when seawater covered where we sat 
watching the loon. 

Floating bergs, the white peaks, and the processes 
of mineral transport and deposit, have all repeatedly 
characterized the Glacier Bay scene. Until recently, 
geologists believed that the last million years had 
brought four major ice ages. Now they see these as 
composite glacier advances, retreats, and re-advances. 
The number of such pulses was closer to 40 than to 
four, with one series often hard to discern from 

Expanding glaciers clear virtually everything mov- 
able from their paths, so nothing more than traces of 
early glaciations are likely to remain. One such trace 
lies along the outer coast of Glacier Bay National 
Park. Marine tillite, glacial debris deposited in 
seawater, is there interbedded with layers of silt- 
stone and sandstone for a total thickness of nearly 
2,000 meters (6,500 feet). The ancient tillite formed 
by the same mineral dumping process I've been 


Researchers ready depth- 
recording instruments inside 
Bergy-bit's covered hull (top). 
Glaciologist Austin Post 
(middle) plots bathymetric 
contours aboard Growler. 
Bergy-bit's chart (bottom) 
shows the Gilman Glacier 
ice front. On the author's trip 
aboard Growler, Bergy-bit 
charted an underwater can- 
yon at the Johns Hopkins 
Glacier ice front. 

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Post-Glacial Land Features 

Retreating glaciers leave be- 
hind characteristic land fea- 
tures, some shaped by the 
ice, others by meltwater. In 
your travelogue, impress your 
friends with the technical 
term: glacio-geomorphologi- 
cal features. 

OEskers form as a stream 
tunnel beneath a glacier fills 
in with rubble. Eskers look 
like inverted streams winding 
snake-like across today's 

Moraines form in various 
ways. ©Lateral moraines 
form where the sides of a 
glacier shove up mounds or 
ridges. ©End moraines, gla- 
cial dumps at the snout of 
retreating ice, trend perpen- 
dicular to its flow. Ground 


moraines a:-e deposited un- 
der moving ice. ©The dark 
stripes on Casement Glacier 
(below) are medial moraines. 
They were once the lateral 
moraines of the tributary gla- 
ciers squeezed together to 
form this glacier. 

©Outwash plains are melt- 
water features. The broad, 
flat riverbed and braided 
stream are typical. At times 
during the Ice Ages, the 
Mississippi River probably 
looked like this scene — on a 
grander scale. 

©Revegetation flourishes on 
higher ground. The outwash 
plain must fix its river chan- 
nel before revegetation takes 
hold. Burdened by glacial silt, 
this streambed wanders over 
the valley, its changing course 
stymieing revegetation. 


watching this morning. It comes complete with the 
rafted lumps such as we sought without success last 
evening— the sort that ride the icebergs J see out the 
porthole now. 

Shells date the layered outer-coast sediments to 
about 15 million years B.P. (before present.) A park 
research biologist once told me he found a fossil 
beech leaf in the deposits. It must have been blown 
or washed seaward to settle in the ocean-bottom 
ooze. To have endured for 15 million years seems 
extraordinary; to be a beech leaf even more so. For 
that testifies to a scene far different than today's. 
Glacier ice was then juxtaposed with deciduous 
forest. Nowhere does such a situation exist today 
except in Chile where a relative of beech thrives 
close to ice. 

For most of southeast Alaska, the signs of early 
glaciation are not deposition but erosion. Sharply 
sculpted high peaks are those plucked by ice. Lower, 
rounded contours were overridden. You can see this 
shift from craggy horn peaks to rounded and pol- 
ished bedrock and so pinpoint the level of a former 
glacier. In lower Glacier Bay this line comes at 
about 1,300 meters (4,200 feet). 

The period from about 30,000 to 10,000 B.P. 
brought the most recent worldwide glaciation, known 
in America as the Wisconsinan because the southern 
edge or terminus of a vast ice sheet sculpted much of 
that state's current topography. The Glacier Bay 
region — and practically all high latitudes and 
elevations— surrendered to ice during this time. 
Juneau lay beneath a white shroud 1,500 meters 
(5,000 feet) thick. At Cape Spencer on the park's 
outer coast the ice was still at least 900 meters (3,000 
feet) thick, with its leading edge somewhere far 
beyond today's coastline. 

Oddly, however, parts of the shore were not 
veneered by this ice. It may be they escaped because 
a geologic fault at the western base of the Fair- 
weather mountains acted as a gutter and shunted off 
encroaching ice. Faults are cracks in the Earth's 
surface; this one marks where a large sliver or 
terrane of the Earth's crust slides against another, 
near the much larger Pacific and North American 
crustal plates' boundary. California's San Andreas 
Fault is similar. The Fairweather rift splits off land 
from Icy Point to Russell Fjord north of Yakutat. 








X^Russell Fjord 5 | 




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/ Gustavus / 

Glacier Bay Nations 


Park and Preserve 


During the Wisconsinan ad- 
vance the Glacier Bay region 
surrendered to a vast ice 
sheet, but part of the Outer 
Coast escaped this icy veneer. 
Scientists hypothesize that a 
geologic fault at the Fair- 
weather Range 's western base 
acted as a gutter, shunting off 
the encroaching ice. Faults 
show as red lines on this map. 

Bedrock is out of alignment along opposite sides of 
the fault. In fact, whole provinces have slid north- 
ward as the oceanic plate collides with the continen- 
tal plate and heaves up the mountains. Certain rock 
found at sea level south of Icy Point stands north of 
the Point at an elevation of more than 3,000 meters 
( 10,000 feet). Less active faults underlie both Glacier 
Bay and Lynn Canal. 

Above Tarr Inlet: It is afternoon and Dave and 
Emily and I have climbed onto the highest terrace of 
the slope above the Grand Pacific snout. Dave's 
altimeter shows our elevation as 269 meters (882 
feet). A multi-decked cruise ship drifting among 
icebergs near the glacier face looks from here like an 
inconsequential dot. People on deck to watch bergs 
calve off must see the glacier front as immense. At 
60 to 80 meters (200 to 260 feet) high and 6 kilo- 
meters (3.75 miles) across, it is. 

From our vantage point you see how much more 
glacier there really is than shows from the water. 
Grand Pacific flows as an infinity of ice coming from 
far back in the mountains. Except for crevasses near 
the snout, its surface looks like a broad white 
highway, which is how several coastal Alaskan gla- 
ciers served Indians and prospectors traveling to and 
from the interior. Using Grand Pacific as a conduit, 
wolves and bears have extended their range onto 
Glacier Bay lands recently melted free of ice and 
beginning to host life again. 

From where we sit it's easy to imagine Tarr Inlet 
stripped of today's ice, seeing instead either a contin- 
uation of today's waterway or a broad terrestrial 
valley bottom. As recently as the 1920s the Grand 
Pacific melted its way out of the United States and 2 
kilometers (1.2 miles) into Canada. That gave Can- 
ada a potential site for her northwesternmost seaport. 
But by 1948 ice again moved forward as far as the 

The Glacier Bay bedrock trough is tremendously 
deep, dropping to 550 meters (1,800 feet) near 
Gilbert Island. Muir Inlet reaches about 375 meters 
(1,200 feet), a considerable depth, yet the inlet 
completely filled with gravel following withdrawal of 
the Wisconsinan ice! This fill stood higher than 
present sea level, developing soil and a spruce-and- 
hemlock forest. Side valleys, dammed by the gravel, 
seem to have held lakes, because traces of glacial 


The theory of worldwide 
glaciation, published in 1840, 
only slowly supplanted the 
Biblical flood in explaining 
contemporary landforms. 
Naturalist John Muir cham- 
pioned this glacial theory in 
the United States. Muir 
canoed into Glacier Bay with 
Tlingit paddlers in 1879 from 
Fort Wrangell to see first- 
hand the massive glacier now 
named for him. 

outwash gravels cling 250 meters (820 feet) above 
today's saltwater shores, and lakebed sediments are 
still in place. Dr. Richard Goldthwait, form-er pro- 
fessor at Ohio State University, believed that the 
fill in Muir, Wachusett, and Adams Inlets probably 
averaged 150 meters (500 feet) deep and 5 kilome- 
ters (3 miles) wide for a cumulative 80 kilometers (50 
miles) of length. Except for mere whispers, this 
stupendous volume of gravel fill is now gone. Re- 
advancing ice swept it into the Beartrack Cove area 
and on southward. The broad Gustavus flatlands are 
partly old Muir gravel fill. 

Wisconsinan glaciers melted back perhaps 11,000 
years ago and probably stayed back until about 3,500 
years ago, when harsh climatic conditions again 
favored glacier expansion. Worldwide this Little Ice 
Age was not dramatic. At Glacier Bay, however, 
snowfall produced ice more than 1,000 meters (3,200 
feet) thick and pushed the glaciers far forward. A 
tongue of ice once more filled the entire Glacier Bay 
fjord and bulged out into Icy Strait. This dammed 
Muir Valley and backed up an enormous lake there 
that drowned the forest. 

About a thousand years after the glaciers' en- 
croachment into the main Glacier Bay fjord, an ice 
tongue began to advance down Muir Valley. At the 
outlet it was blocked by the glacier already there. 
Unable to thrust farther forward, this new ice ponded 
and flowed back on itself, filling depressions along 
lower Muir Inlet to such depths that remnants still 
haven't melted today. They are popular destinations 
for hikers and give geologists a look at how melting 
glacier ice has produced much of today's northern- 
latitudes topography. 

The often exuberant, knowledgeable, and renowned 
John Muir was an early proponent of the continental 
glaciation theory in North America. Muir canoed 
north from Fort Wrangell in October 1879, coaxing 
his Tlingit Indian paddlers onward against their 
judgment. Fall struck them as a foolish season for 
venturing among icebergs, but, for Muir, ice was 
the reason for the journey. Aged 41, acclaimed 
champion of all nature, specifically fascinated by 
glaciation, Muir became the first Glacier Bay sight- 
seer to write extensively and glowingly about the 
wonders of what now is the national park. His first 
trip was brief, but in the summer of 1880 and again in 


Harry Fielding Reid first 
lugged his theodolite and 
plane table about Glacier Bay 
in 1890. So began the accu- 
rate plotting of ice positions 
that is critical to relating 
glacier behavior to climate 
change and other factors. 

1890, Muir returned. By the time of his third 
trip, tourists were visiting Glacier Bay aboard side- 
wheel excursion steamers. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore 
wrote in a National Geographic article of "stopping, 
backing, and going at half speed to avoid the floating 
ice all around . . . [which] occasionally was ground 
and crunched up by the paddle wheels with a most 
uncomfortable sound." 

The Muir Glacier— newly named for the famed 
naturalist— had scarcely begun its retreat at that 
time, though the ice filling Glacier Bay proper had 
drawn back 60 kilometers (37 miles) in the century 
since British Captain George Vancouver had noted 
its presence in 1794. This glacial retreat of this 
scale is the fastest known anywhere, anytime. 

Fortunately for the understanding of Glacier Bay's 
chronology, Harry Fielding Reid, a pioneering 
glaciologist, arrived here in 1890, about 30 years 
after the Glacier Bay recession had exposed the Muir 
Glacier for the first time. Through the summer 
of 1890 and again two summers later, Reid explored 
by rowboat and on foot, lugging a cumbersome 
theodolite and plane table for mapping glacier 
positions. "We once approached to within a quarter 
mile of the ice cliffs of Muir Glacier, which towered 
impressively above us," Reid wrote. "Suddenly a 
large berg broke off, followed immediately by a 
second, and then several arose from below. Great 
breakers which must have been 30 feet high, rushed 
forward, but fortunately subsided into an even swell 
before reaching us. The fragments of ice spread out 
with great rapidity and in a few minutes quite 
surrounded our boat." 

The Grand Pacific Glacier was then fused with 
the Margerie, their joint terminus barely separated 
from the Johns Hopkins Glacier. Reid wrote that the 
continual calving of that great ice cliff, nearly 10 
kilometers (6 miles) long, was "keeping the inlet well 
covered with floating ice and the air pulsating with 
the thunder of its fall." 

No wonder the Tlingits thought John Muir reck- 
less, though he gloried in the calving bergs' "awful 
roaring, tons of water streaming like hair down the 
sides, while they heave and plunge again and again 
before they settle in poise and sail away as blue- 
crystal islands, free at last. . . ." John Muir, too, 
had touched time. 



Galloping, Calving, 
Advancing, Retreating 

Mad wreckage of the retreat- 
ing Muir Glacier ice front 
chokes adjacent waters. The 
glacier retreated about 5 kilo- 
meters (3 miles) between 1972 
and 1982. It has retreated 
more than 25 kilometers (15 
miles) in this century, at 
widely varying rates. 

Johns Hopkins: All morning we have been charting 
in upper Johns Hopkins Inlet. The high peaks of the 
Fairweather Range thrust like white fangs above us. 
Beside us rise gray, bare, abrupt rock walls. We 
arrived here aboard Growler about 2100 last evening. 
Sunlight still flooded the upper walls but the water 
already stood in twilight, lending an eerie quality to 
this cathedral-like fjord. Eager to see whether the 
Tyeen Glacier had surged forward since last summer, 
we barely noticed, however. Austin, Dave, Emily, 
Charles, and I all crowded into the wheelhouse, with 
last year's aerial photograph on the chart table for 
comparison with what we hoped to see ahead, a 
glacier that galloped. Alas, no drama greeted us. 
The ice still hung near the top of the cliff, poised to 
surge, perhaps, but far from having done so. 

Two hundred surging glaciers are known in Alaska 
and northwestern Canada, with some occasionally 
surging several kilometers in a single year. These 
extraordinary advances occur only on certain glaciers. 
No glaciers overlying granitic bedrock are given to 
surging. Many that do surge are associated with 
geologic faults, but not all. Water beneath the ice 
has been advanced as an explanation for surging 
glaciers, but this may not be the whole answer. 

A mountain glacier is usually rushing if it moves a 
meter or two (4 to 7 feet) a day. Deformation permits 
the ice to bend and slide around obstacles, and the 
enormous pressure against any such protrusion pro- 
duces enough heat to melt a fraction of the glacier's 
undersurface. Lubricated by this minute film of 
meltwater, the ice jerks forward. That relieves the 
pressure and the melt-film refreezes. The process 
starts anew. 

I once watched this happen where University of 
Washington researchers had dug a 25-meter (85-foot) 
tunnel to bedrock beneath the Blue Glacier in 
Washington's Olympic Mountains. Gauges imbed- 
ded in the tunnel walls measured the pressure the ice 


exerted against irregularities in its bed and the rate 
of its jerky flow over and around them. Dials dispas- 
sionately registered what was happening, but you 
could see it without them. A knob of bedrock might 
have ice pressed against it. Then a momentary 
wetness would darken the rock and an additional 
fraction of the knob would be engulfed. The process 
was silent and, but for the glaciologists' lights, would 
have taken place in utter blackness. 

While it is not very likely that you would get to 
witness the surging of a glacier during your stay in 
the park, most people who visit Glacier Bay do get to 
see the park's glaciers perform what is unquestiona- 
bly their most stupendous scenic spectacle: the 
calving of icebergs off their tidewater snouts. When 
the glacier ice comes in contact with saltwater, it 
melts at a much more rapid rate than does ice that is 
exposed only to the open air. This increased rate of 
melting produces an undercutting of the front of the 
glacier and therefore reduces the amount of support 
for the ice above it, which is exposed only to the air. 
The amount of their ice that is exposed to the sea 
water, along with the speed of their forward move- 
ment, are the factors which help explain why some 
glaciers calve so actively, and others do not. 

Icebergs themselves are far from uniform. Those 
that look white hold myriad trapped air bubbles. 
Blue means denser ice. Greenish-black ice is from 
the bottom, or sole, of a glacier and such bergs may 
also be grooved where bedrock knobs have gouged 
the glacier. Morainal rubble stripes some icebergs 
with brown, or totally darkens them. Rocks ride atop 
bergs and plop into the water from their sides. 

Stranding icebergs leave tracks as they half float, 
half drag along the beach. And they grind, squash, 
and rip seaweeds and mussels pioneering rocky 
shores. Floating bergs offer perches favored by bald 
eagles, cormorants, and gulls. For eagles the bergs 
seem to serve as movable vantage points for spotting 
opportunities to prey or scavenge. Cormorants often 
hold out their wings to dry while they ride. Most 
gulls just rest. Kittiwakes— gulls that come ashore 
only to nest— briefly ride Glacier Bay icebergs dur- 
ing their August transition from nesting colonies to 
life at sea. Guillemots and puffins never ride the 
bergs, perhaps because of difficulties landing on ice. 
Their legs, set far back and fine for swimming, are 


awkward out of water. Land birds, except for eagles, 
generally ignore icebergs. 

As you kayak among bergs, paddling silently, you 
hear melt take its toll. Water drops and cascades. Air 
bubbles pop and ice cracks constantly as it adjusts to 
changing pressures and temperatures. Even with 
your eyes closed, you can tell icebergs are close. 
How high bergs float depends on their size and ice 
density and on the density of the water. Where 
runoff or rainwater floats atop saltwater, bergs sink 
lower than if freshwater is absent. The burden of 
rock and sediment in the ice sometimes weighs a 
small berg below the surface. A faint shadowy 
presence is all that gives it away. 

Huge bergs, recognizable by distinctive shape or 
patterning, may last a week or more, though they 
split or turn over as reshaping melt affects balance. 
What had seemed a modest floating crag may, when 
rolling over, suddenly loom as an enormous hazard if 
youVe paddled too near. 

Studying a beached iceberg reveals its fabric and 
susceptibility to melt. Ice crystals that measure a 
centimeter (0.4 inches) or more across interlock as 
in a three-dimensional puzzle. Along such interfaces 
sun warmth and saltwater attack. Grasp a projection 
and wiggle it. You will hear a squeaking as the 
crystals rub one another along these junctions. 

Last evening Dave stood near Growler's bow as 
we approached the upper end of Johns Hopkins 
Inlet. Net in hand, he scooped up icebergs for the 
refrigerator. We had run close to the Johns Hopkins 
and Oilman glacier faces to take bottom readings. 
For these, Austin used Bergy-bit, the little radio- 
controlled boat which amounts to a sieek hull fitted 
with a tight lid. Only its three-horsepower electric 
motor projects vulnerably. We placed one of Growler's 
depth sounders inside Bergy-bit. 

Mid channel approaching the Johns Hopkins snout, 
Growler consistently recorded a water depth of 400 
meters (1,300 feet) and a flat bottom, the sort of 
uniform contour expected of fine-grained sediments 
deposited in deep water. The water is so deep that 
there is no anchorage in this inlet. The bottom lies 
far beyond an anchor's reach even along the sidewalls. 
To our surprise, however, about one kilometer (1.5 
miles) from the glacier face we measured water 
"only" 150 meters (500 feet) deep. The glacier is 


Stumps are all that remain of 
ancient forests that flourished 
between the major ice ad- 
vances. Some such silent park 
sentinels lived when Egypt 's 
great pyramids were under 

Pages 40-41 : Icebergs are not 
uniform. White ones hold 
myriad trapped air bubbles. 
Blue indicates denser ice. 
Greenish-black ice comes 
from the glacier bottom. 
Brown stripes denote mo- 
rainal rubble. The sighings 
and creakings of an iceberg 's 
slow demise are— with the 
percussive drip of meltwater 
— quite musical. 

pushing a steep-sided submarine moraine far out 
ahead of its front— and thereby creating a situation 
that Austin was seeing for the first time. 

We sent Bergy-bit along the east side of the Johns 
Hopkins ice front, and the entire front of the Oilman 
Glacier, and then, barely before midnight, quit for 
dinner. For the past two hours I had supposed we 
would stop, so I kept spinach noodles hot on the 
stove, and they turned into a startling green goo. 
Rather than admit culinary defeat I topped the mass 
with Parmesan cheese and croutons and baked it. 
Camaraderie and hunger sufficed to prompt praise 
for my baked goo. By the time we finished dinner it 
was technically already morning. 

We drifted all night. With the water too deep for 
anchorage, we had to depend on pack ice to hold us 
safely away from the fjord wall. We took turns 
standing watch, a long boat hook in hand for pushing 
off bergs that might cause trouble. At one point 
Emily roused Austin to start the engine and work 
free of encircling ice that brought with it an iceberg 
towering higher than Growler's rail. 

Mostly it was a night of ethereal peace. There was 
no moon but the floating ice reflected enough light 
so that on watch you could make out closeby bergs 
and the seals circling us like dark phantoms. Occa- 
sionally a seal would signal the sudden end of its 
curiosity and slap the water with its hind flippers, 
then dive. Otherwise, the only sounds were a faint 
roar from distant waterfalls, the sporadic grinding of 
ice against Growler's hull, and once the splash of an 
iceberg rolling over. 

This morning we resumed readings with Bergy-bit. 
I sit out of the way atop the wheelhouse while Dave 
controls the skiff with the radio transmitter and 
Emily watches with binoculars, telling him which 
way to turn so as to steer Bergy through leads in the 
ice pack. Falling ice strikes the little boat with a loud 
clonk and for a while Bergy vanishes from sight amid 
a welter of falling and surging bergs. Then we see the 
dot of its brilliant red hull and know it has survived. 
Bottom readings are clear. They show a depth of 350 
meters (1,100 feet) close to the west side of the Johns 
Hopkins ice front. We have just charted an underwa- 
ter canyon. 

The Johns Hopkins Glacier started advancing 
more than 50 years ago. South of here the Brady 


Ashore at Photo Station 3, 
marked by a cairn, Growler 
crew members try to ascer- 
tain changes in glacier posi- 

Icefield and Glacier extends a full 70 kilometers (43 
miles) through the Fairweather Range to Taylor Bay. 
Indeed, the Reid Glacier and the Lamplugh, near the 
mouth of this inlet, are lobes of the Brady. It is an ice 
mass today choking a fjord, much as ice a few 
centuries ago sealed the Glacier Bay fjord, forcing 
out the Chookaneidi' Tlingits and denying entrance 
to Captain Vancouver. Why the asynchrony? Among 
the national park's current tidewater glaciers, that is, 
why are some advancing, some retreating, and most 
simply holding their own? 

Photo Station 3: We have rowed ashore on the 
west side of Johns Hopkins Inlet to photograph the 
glaciers from a position first used decades ago by Dr. 
William O. Field, of the American Geographical 
Society. This station is simply a rounded, glacier- 
polished outcrop of white rock partly veneered by a 
mat of dryas runners rooted nearby. A low stone 
cairn holds a jar with a registry of those who have 
made official photographs here. It requests anyone 
who takes unofficial pictures to send copies to the 
Society to enhance the record. There are only four 
entries, beginning with 1958. The position is stunning. 
We see the Johns Hopkins and Gilman Glaciers 
clearly and half a dozen high peaks, including Mount 
Crilion, almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) high. 

I once talked with the late Dr. Field in New York 
City. White haired, the epitome of a gentleman- 
scholar, he was dean of those who had studied the 
Alaskan glaciers. From memory he recited which 
glaciers were advancing, which retreating, and in 
what years. As a young geographer he had pondered 
the small amount of ice left in the United States 
compared to its dominant role in shaping the land. 
"That's when I got hooked," he told me. 

In 1926 on his first trip to Glacier Bay he noticed 
immense changes in the ice positions documented 
by pioneering glaciologists beginning in the late 
1800s. Harry Reid, for example, had written about 
"changes expected in the next 50 years." Where 
Reid's map showed solid ice. Field watched whales 
and seals. The ice was gone. 

"You need continuity in a record," he told me. 
"Otherwise there's no way to see what's happening. 
The Johns Hopkins Glacier, for example, has ad- 
vanced a mile since I first saw it in 1926 and it's still 
coming. Small glaciers show change more quickly 


These pictures taken by 
William O. Field from Photo 
Station 3 document the ad- 
vancing position of the Johns 
Hopkins Glacier in (top to 
bottom) August of 1941, 1950, 
and 1976. This glacier began 
its current advance about 50 
years ago. Use the mountain 
peaks as reference points to 
verify the advance for your- 
self. Nearby Oilman Glacier, 
and a small hanging glacier 
on Mt. Abbe, above the 
Johns Hopkins, have hardly 
changed since the 1930s. 


Professor Field sets up for 
theodolite readings from a 
survey station near Muir 
Glacier in 1976. 

than vast icefields can. Greater accumulation than 
normal, or more melting, and they respond almost 
right away. Yet glaciers aren't simply barometers of 
climate. There's more to it, especially with tidewater 

The lack of glacier documentation had launched 
Field's career. Getting data takes remarkable 
persistence, partly because of the mammoth compila- 
tion needed and partly because of isolated and 
difficult working conditions. 

"You need triangulation to keep track of what an 
ice front is doing, but maintaining usable triangula- 
tion points gets tough at times," Dr. Field reminisced. 
"You may go back and find a station worthless 
because alder has grown so much you can't see out, 
let alone do any surveying or even take a picture. 

"Or if the ice is advancing, you have to move the 
station out of its way. If it's receding, you still have 
to move so as to stay close enough to do any good. In 
the 1940s we watched the Grand Pacific Glacier 
advance from Canada back into the U.S. We'd set up 
a station and it'd be obliterated before we could get 
back on another trip. Access was a problem, too, 
even if the station was still there. We had a real 
battle getting to the photo point between the Margerie 
and the Grand Pacific. The beach we needed to land 
on often was completely blocked by floating icebergs. 
And the calving of new ones set up shock waves that 
kept us alert the times we did go ashore." 

Field said that tidewater glaciers "confuse the 
whole picture" in measuring past climates. As an 
oversimplification, assume the steady nourishing of 
a glacier by yearly snowfall. Once equilibrium is 
reached, this ice should neither thicken nor thin, 
advance nor retreat. Given present climate, this 
fairly well describes most ice tongues in Glacier Bay 
National Park and Preserve except for those that 
reach saltwater. These cause the confusion, but 
research aboard Growler has contributed to under- 
standing them. Receding tidewater glaciers reach 
into deep water. Advancing or stable tongues end 
either on marine shoals or where the heads of inlets 
rise above sea level. 

If deep water spells retreat, what's the depth 
where tidal glaciers are advancing? Shallow. Usually 
less than 80 meters (260 feet). 

Why? The glaciers themselves make it so. They 


Tidewater Glaciers 

A tidewater glacier is one 
whose snout touches tidal 
water, such as Glacier Bay. 
Nine glaciers actively calve 
icebergs into tidal water in 
the park. This painting— 
based on the Johns Hopkins 
Glacier— shows you the dy- 
nes aqd effects of such a 

mammoth tongue of ice 
from near its mountain ori- 
gins to the submarine sole of 
its snout. The submerged 
fjord walls and floor are in- 
terpreted from contour lines 
plotted from bathymetric 
readings taken aboard the re- 
search vessel Growler (see 


photos on pages 24 and 29). 
An advancing glacier is like a 
combined bulldozer and con- 
veyor belt. It cuts and shoves 
material around, and con- 
veys it forward from the 
mountains; Johns Hopkins 
Glacier began its current ad- 
vance some 65 years ago. To 

support its advance, a tide- 
water glacier builds a pro- 
tective shoal at its snout by 
dumping rock debris. Pluck- 
ing material from the up-slope 
of this ridge and depositing it 
on the down-slope enable the 
glacier to advance in deep 
water. This balance is pre- 

carious. The least retreat may 
back it off the shoal. Rapid 
retreat then sets in until the 
glacier reaches shallow wa- 
ter, where it may rebuild its 
protective shoal. 


• ;K 

■j^||;- •? 



Climbers sometimes find the 
Fairweather Range, with its 
quixotic and severe weather, 
misnamed. This immense land 
seems to triple in size imme- 
diately when you get in a 
tight spot. 

advance only if they've built a protective shoal at the 
snout, by dumping rock debris. This forms an under- 
water terminal moraine and provides a partial bar- 
rier between the ice and the erosive action of sea 
water. By plucking material from the up-slope of this 
ridge and redepositing it on the down-slope, a glacier 
can keep advancing along even a very deep waterway. 

How fast? Perhaps one to three kilometers (0.5 to 
2 miles) per century. Eventually the ice may become 
so extended that the amount lost from the surface 
melt and calving matches the snowfall feeding the 
upper glacier. At this stage, balance is so precarious 
that even a slight retreat causes the snout to back off 
its shoal and re-enter deep water. Irreversible retreat 
then continues until the glacier reaches shallow 
water, usually at the head of tidewater. There it 
stabilizes, at least until it builds enough shoal to 
begin a new, slow advance. 

Sometimes I resent the name Johns Hopkins for 
this inlet. It comes from an early-day university 
expedition here. It struck me as audacious to make 
an institutional trophy of such scenic magnificence. 
Bob Howe, park superintendent when I first visited 
here, clamped a moratorium on further naming of 
peaks, valleys, waterfalls— or anything. He felt there 
should be places where humans experience the 
pristine without presuming to label. The gift shop 
manager of a cruise ship told me she put up a closed 
sign during her first trip into Johns Hopkins Inlet. 
"Come to the upper deck if you need film," her note 
read. "The shop will reopen after we leave Johns 
Hopkins." It's that beautiful. 

Reid Inlet: We anchored Growler about 0200 
this morning. We'd eaten another midnight dinner 
after finishing the Johns Hopkins depth readings and 
hiking across the Topeka Glacier outwash, looking 
for inter-glacial wood. We debated: stay in Johns 
Hopkins or run to Reid Inlet? Austin decided to run 
because we might be too tired to stand effective 
watch through the night. There was too little pack 
ice in Johns Hopkins Inlet to hold Growler safely 
free of the sidewalls as we drifted. Two other vessels 
also were running, their distant lights ghostly com- 
panions for this late and weary hour. One could only 
speculate who these boats might be, drifting off the 
pack ice off the Margerie Glacier. Perhaps one was a 
sailboat awaiting the winds to take it home, and the 


^ >^. 

other was a tourboat standing idle hoping for one 
last icefall before the onset of darkness. 

Harry Reid's 1890 map of this inlet now bearing 
his name shows nothing but ice here. No land at all. 
Even in the 1940s, when Joe and Muz Ibach built a 
distinctive little cabin and began mining pockets of 
gold ore high on the cliffs, the Reid Glacier had 
drawn back no farther than the toe of their beach. 
Now, however, you can boat some 3 kilometers (2 
miles) into the inlet. 

After breakfast this morning we motored Growler's 
dory across from our anchorage, following as close 
as is prudent to the bulging ice face. 'The glacier 
must be advancing," Austin said. "Look at the push 
moraines." He pointed out low ridges of rock and 
gravel slightly ahead of where ice is pressing against 
the inlet's sidewalk Circular mats of dryas are half 
swallowed by the advance. Sheer crevasses split the 
ice where its leading edge has thrust across the land. 
They form 50-meter (164-foot) slits clearly visible 
against the sky. 

Aboard Growler I have been seeing advancing or 
stable glaciers, yet other glaciers in the park are 
rapidly withdrawing. Muir Glacier has gone back 40 
kilometers (25 miles) since 1890 when Reid mapped 
its terminus barely above the inlet's junction with 
Glacier Bay. In the years my husband, Louis, and I 
have been coming to the park we have seen the Muir 
front separate from the Riggs Glacier and retreat far 
up the inlet. As of 1994, this glacier has been 
essentially grounded, no longer a true tidewater glacier. 

Elevation may partly explain why some glaciers 
are now advancing while others are withdrawing. 
Tarr, Johns Hopkins, and Reid inlets all finger from 
high peaks. Plateaus feeding their ice typically stand 
2,000 meters (6,500 feet) high and are subject to 
prodigious snowfall. The park's retreating glaciers, 
on the other hand, derive from elevations averaging 
about half that high. The uplands near Glacier Bay's 
mouth, where ice is gone, rise little more than 350 
meters (1,100 feet) overall. This difference in park 
elevations separates northwestern advancing ice from 
eastern receding ice. And the Brady Icefield's im- 
mensity seems to influence its own weather. The 
icefield chills moisture-laden clouds from the Pacific 
and triggers their glacier-nourishing release. 

Surprisingly small temperature differences account 


for radically varying glacial effects. The Wisconsinan 
Ice Age was only 5 to 6 degrees Celsius cooler 
than today. The following warm period averaged 
perhaps one degree warmer than today. During the 
Little Ice Age here, the elevation above which more 
snow fell in winter than melted in summer was about 
830 meters (2,700 feet). Today this point stands at 
1,600 meters (5,200 feet) — except for the Brady 
Icefield, where it is half that. 

No wonder the glaciers that are more likely to 
advance now are those with their heads high in the 
mountains. The dice are loaded against the others, 
aside from the peculiarities of tidewater ice. Viewed 
on a time scale of millennia, all glaciers are respond- 
ing to climate. They are asynchronous only in terms 
of centuries and decades, time scales more compre- 
hensible because they better match our lifespan. 
What we view as significant events may be minute 
fluctuations on the millennial scale, which is, for 
glaciers, the more true scale. 




•H . k 


Post-Glacier Plant Succession 

Harebells (front) and fire- 
weed push up their colors 
from streamside rock rubble 
tumbled like fist-sized gems 
by past torrents of glacial 

In Muir Inlet: A photograph taken in the 1890s 
shows an excursion steamer at the Muir ice front 
and, perched closeby on a completely barren moraine, 
the one-room cabin where John Muir hosted Harry 
Reid's research party. Today the cabin is just an 
overgrown heap of chimney stones and from the 
place where the photo was taken you can't even see 
out through the alder and spruce. As for the glacier 
snout, it's now 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Just as 
glaciologists find these inlets ideal for pinpointing 
the coming and going of ice, botanists revel in the 
chance to document the plants' green conquest of 
denuded landscapes retreating glaciers leave behind. 

My husband, Louis, and I were at the Muir snout 
this afternoon with Chess Lyons, aboard our small 
sloop, Taku. At 7 meters (23 feet) long, Taku is 
outclassed by some icebergs we sailed among. We 
brought the sloop to Juneau by ferry and then sailed 
and motored to Glacier Bay. Louis is a skilled sailor 
so enamored of the sea that I suspect saltwater, not 
blood, flows in his veins. Our friend Chess has no 
sailing background but his career as naturalist with 
British Columbia Provincial Parks — he is now 
retired— and maker of nature films has given him 
abundant outdoor experience. I am adept in the 
galley, less so in the cockpit, yet enthusiastic about 
hfe afloat, whether aboard Growler last month or 
now Taku. We ate today's lunch while sailing up the 
inlet, wind flicking salad from our bowls. Even 
without sails raised, Taku heeled ten degrees. With 
sails, we traveled faster than Taku's rated hull speed 
of seven knots. 

Yesterday we motored to the head of Wachusett 
Inlet, a Muir tributary. The lower part of Wachusett 
Inlet, longest free of glacier ice, is green with 
vegetation while utter barrenness still characterizes 
the newly ice-free upper reaches. At the head of the 
inlet we hiked to the divide separating Wachusett 
from Queen Inlet. This took us backward through 


vegetation's green chronology: The lower the slope, 
the more recent the plants. Hiking at first was like 
crossing a desert alluvial fan except that we found no 
plants. Even in Death Valley you can't take a dozen 
steps without coming on greenery. Here was nothing 
but sand and rock. The land is virgin, newly released 
from the ice. 

A bit higher I finally noticed a plant, a single 
fireweed half a finger high. Soon other fire weed 
plants and equally tiny willows were present. Upslope 
the plants gradually got taller and the willow even 
had branches. We added scouring rush to the species 
list we were keeping, then dry as. The dry as stood a 
centimeter (0.4 inches) high, each plant having six 
leaves. I kept the lens cap on my camera because the 
plants were so widespread and puny that footsteps 
kicked up dust. 

The vegetation changed abruptly as we reached a 
high terrace that had been free of ice substantially 
longer than the slopes below. The willow now reached 
halfway to our knees. Leathery-leafed dryas plants 
formed circular mats, and cushions of dark, dry 
moss padded spaces between alders growing as high 
as my shoulder. At the divide we found Christmas- 
tree spruce and carpets of heather. We had walked 
backward through plant succession, beaching our 
dinghy on land born just two years ago and climbing 
to a surface now green, but new a century ago when 
Harry Reid made his glacier map and John Muir 
explored the inlet that bears his name. 

Plant beginnings may be no more than "black 
crust," a cohesive feltlike nap believed to be mostly 
algae. This helps stabilize silt and hold in moisture. 
Moss adds thicker, more conspicuous tufts to the 
covering, and windblown spores and seeds of plants 
from scouring rush to fireweed and willow, spruce, 
and alder arrive and root. Along beaches, seeds such 
as those of ryegrass ride ashore on extreme high 
tides. Blueberry and crowberry seeds get deposited 
in bird feces, the seedlings thereby benefitting from 
minute dots of fertilizer. Bears and wolves and 
mountain goats, shaking water from their pelts, may 
shake out clinging seeds picked up where they last 
fed. Campers sweeping out tents may also contribute. 
By such means, vegetation's green conquest makes 
its start. 

Successful growth depends in part on where the 


In raw landscapes dry as 
builds soil and adds enriching 
nitrogen. Fossil and pollen 
studies show that this mat- 
ting plant pioneered much of 
Europe and North America 
when the last Ice Age ended. 

seeds happen to land. Glacier till and outwash are 
notoriously deficient in nitrogen and at first produce 
stunted, yellowish plant growth. Green exceptions to 
this rule are alder and dryas. Both solve the problem 
by associating with micro-organisms that draw nitro- 
gen directly from the air. Alder relies on molds living 
on its roots in nodules about the size of grain kernels 
or sometimes as big as walnuts. Dryas roots appar- 
ently interrelate with mycorrhizae, minute fungi that 
sheathe the roots of many plant species and stimu- 
late growth in ways not fully understood. The proc- 
ess seems to involve enzyme and nitrogen production. 

Fossil leaves, seed hairs, and pollen recovered in 
bogs and excavations indicate that dryas pioneered 
much of northern Europe and America at the close 
of the last Ice Age. Their first year the plants 
produce single rosettes of tiny leaves. The next year 
this growth triples; the third year it quadruples. Mats 
well over a meter (a yard) across develop after five 
years. At this stage, lateral shoots rapidly fuse indi- 
vidual mats into massive carpets. 

Hardy and flexible, Sitka alder begins to dominate 
suitable sites within a couple of decades following 
glacier retreat. It eventually forms dense stands that 
are abominably tangled — and disHked by humans 
who are afoot. At this stage trees are about 3 
meters (10 feet) high, the limbs of individual alders 
growing low and wickedly interlocked. Hike through 
such thickets and you find arms, legs, shoulders, 
eyeglasses, bracelet, and backpack each caught sepa- 
rately and pulled in differing directions. You can't 
see out. Holding to a course is largely luck without a 
compass. Brown/grizzly bear tracks thread what 
openings there are, then vanish. The more you try to 
see where the tracks lead, the more certain it is that 
your noisy bashing about will startle a ptarmigan, the 
explosive whirr of its wings all but stopping your 
heart until its gravelly tobacco-tobacco-tobacco call 
registers an all-clear: bird, not bear. 

"Two of us after three hours of thrashing through 
this dreaded shrub, emerged at the point where we 
had set out!" lamented a recent British researcher. 
But alder has its good side. It stimulates the growth 
of other plants. Its fallen leaves put as much nitrogen 
into the soil as alfalfa would. Dryas similarly enriches 
the soil. Alder and dryas are such successful plant 
pioneers and become so dominant that you'd expect 


Post-Glacial Plant Succession 

After glacial retreat, vegeta- 
tion recolonizes bare, nutrient- 
poor land in successive stages. 
Algal plant associations sta- 
bilize silt. Moss tufts follow. 
Then come horsetail and 
dryas, a matting plant that 
pioneered post-Ice Age Eur- 

ope and North America. Wil 
low, alder, and spruce next 
gain footholds. The climax 
stage is the mature spruce- 
hemlock forest found at Bart 
lett Cove. 






^iiil^^^" 4 i.i 

Ryegrass (large photo) may 
pioneer beaches. Inset photos 
(clockwise from upper left) 
show: alder, cottonwood, 
hemlock, and spruce. 



Plants Recover the Landscape 

For two centuries glacial ice 
has been melting back in re- 
treat up this fjord we know as 
Glacier Bay. This means that 
none of the plant life seen 
here today is more than 200 
years old. Most of it is indeed 
far younger. 

At Bartlett Cove, the full 200 
years have allowed develop- 
ment of mature spruce forest. 
Within this forest more than 
one generation of trees has 
had time to grow, many old 
veterans have died, and fungi 
and molds have become estab- 
lished in the special habitat of 
decaying wood. Further up 
the fjord the number of plants 
decreases. Living conditions 
loom more severe and habi- 
tats are fewer. At the fjord's 
farthest reaches, at the ice 
margins themselves, are only 
mosses, lichens, and primi- 
tive plants struggling to re- 
claim raw land for coming 
stages of revegetation. 

It is difficult to imagine that 
the landscape of richly for- 
ested Barlett Cove was so 
recently similar to the glacier 
rubble of the stream-cut ter- 
minal moraine shown at right. 
However, the setting of this 
stream, issuing from a nearby 
retreating glacier, repeats the 
scene that has been marching 
up-bay for two centuries. 





Red columbine 






Terminal moraine succession 

% • 

Baneberry, two types 


^ \ 




Bitter cress 


them to last forever. Their growth is so dense, 
however, that their own progeny can't make headway. 
Their role is to stabilize and enrich the soil. That 
done, they die out and a comparative explosion of 
plant diversity ensues. 

Overall, this successional drama is similar along 
the shorelands of all up-bay country. First come the 
scattered pioneers, succeeded by a low-growing mat 
stage and then a thicket stage. The two major arms 
of the Glacier Bay waterway differ, however, in their 
rates of development within these stages and in the 
species playing key roles. In Muir Inlet and its 
tributaries alder is ubiquitous. In the upper Tarr 
Inlet drainage alder thrives only in swales and draws. 
Soapberry and willow approximate a thicket stage, 
one you can easily hike through. 

These geographic differences are surprisingly clear 
cut. In Muir Inlet a land surface that has been free of 
ice nearly a century will host a formidable tangle of 
alder— or be well along toward spruce forest. But in 
Tarr Inlet, dryas and willow still will dominate a 
surface of comparable age. Why should Muir Inlet 
be ahead in its plant sequences? Probably because it 
opens toward the prevailing southerly wind. This 
may simplify the arrival of seeds and spores, and 
moderate temperatures. Harsh Tarr Inlet conditions 
contrast markedly. Ocean-born moist winds are 
blocked by the Fairweather mountains, which send 
cold, dry air draining downslope from the high 

From Growler, we regularly rowed ashore so that 
Emily Chase could core trees for a study, counting 
annual rings to find out how long it takes for a 
surface freed of ice to become upholstered by full 
forest. In the park, Bartlett Cove, which is edged by 
a Little Ice Age terminal moraine, has been evolving 
toward forest the longest. It melted out a bit before 
Captain Vancouver arrived offshore. Its forest now 
is a stately mix of Sitka spruce and western hemlock. 
The forest floor is thickly padded by moss and 
clubmoss and is studded with fern, blueberry, devil's 
club, and twayblade. 

On Young island, only a few kilometers up the bay 
from Bartlett Cove and therefore free of ice only 
about two centuries, we sank ankle deep into char- 
treuse moss which extended from the forest floor 
onto the stubby lower branches of spruce. The 


trunks of these trees were bigger than one person 
alone could encircle with outstretched arms. The 
only hemlock we happened to find had a diameter 
less than half that of most of the spruce. On Francis 
Island, spruce were mere dark pyramids barely 
beginning to overtop thick cottonwoods, and we saw 
no hemlock. There, we pulled ourselves up steep 
slopes by alder and willow branches. We had moved 
30 kilometers (19 miles) up-bay from Bartlett Cove, 
sampling forests separated by about seven decades of 
growth opportunity. 

If a seed source is nearby, spruce can arrive and 
sprout early in Glacier Bay's plant sequence, but 
they may grow slowly at first. If it is shaded beneath 
an alder thicket, a 30 to 40-year-old tree may stand 
only knee high. Eventually spruce may overtake the 
alder, and then spruce will dominate for a century or 
two but then be outnumbered by hemlock. On the 
outer coast, however, not all spruce forests even 
wait for the ice to melt. The forest actually grows 
like a green rug atop the stagnant Fairweather 
Glacier tongue and on remnants of the Lituya Glacier, 
flourishing because lowland glaciers characteristi- 
cally carry heavy mineral loads. Spruce and even 
good-sized hemlock stand rooted in thick soil and 
duff. But they tilt drunkenly because pits form in the 
underlying ice and meltwater grottoes collapse. 

Muskeg is the final stage of plants' green conquest 
in Southeast Alaska, although litde, if any, muskeg 
exists along the waterways of Glacier Bay proper. 
Sufficient time has not elapsed since withdrawal of 
the Little Ice Age glaciers. Muskeg represents a 
wondrous coming full circle, a return to openness 
though not to barrenness. It develops as forest soil 
deteriorates after 500 to 1,000 years, building a 
hardpan layer that blocks drainage and prevents 
roots from anchoring securely. Mature trees conse- 
quently topple readily during wind storms, creating 
openings which encourage other plants. Saturated 
conditions preclude most bacteria and fungi, retard- 
ing decay. Instead, sufficient organic litter accumu- 
lates to hold year-round moisture even without the 
hardpan layer, which slowly disintegrates. Acid con- 
ditions prevail and vegetation changes from forest to 

Along the park's outer coast are lowlands that 
escaped being covered by ice during the last glacier 


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'^^,'^^P^'' *"'* 

Plant succession will culmi- 
nate ill spruce-hemlock for- 
est in most of the park. The 
forest floor near park head- 
quarters at Bartlett Cove still 
shelters glacial clues, how- 
ever. Hollows betray where 
abandoned ice blocks took 
years and years to melt. 
Moss-covered hummocks dis- 
guise sandy glacial outwash. 

advance. They have been muskeg for at least 8,000 
years, changing very Uttle through most of this time. 
New species continually arrive and vie for optimum 
position during the two or three centuries that lead 
up to the spruce-hemlock stage. But once muskeg 
takes over, little changes. Spruce and western hem- 
lock continue, but grow scattered and dwarfed and 
with a look of great age and adversity. Mountain 
hemlock, lodgepole pine, and in places yellow cedar, 
come in. Beneath them a variety of soggy and 
leathery-leaved species forms a rough upholstery. 
Overall, I find the mood of muskeg to be quite elfin 
and most mysterious. 

Just east of Glacier Bay, muskeg grows in profusion 
at Point Couverden, where I encountered its great 
mysteries and even greater blueberries. En route from 
Juneau Louis, Chess, and I anchored Taku overnight 
in the point's lee and I rowed ashore. Walking inland 
I passed first through beachside ryegrass and head- 
high cow parsnip flower stalks left from last season. 
Then I passed through a band of spruce-hemlock 
forest rich with fern. Ahead I could see the rounded 
tops of lodgepole pine, a clear contrast to the sharp 
spires of spruce and the pointed-but-drooping tops 
of hemlock. Abruptly, the forest gave way to open, 
mossy, soggy muskeg. Pines grew scattered and 
interspersed with a few stunted mountain hemlock. 
Deer fern replaced the lady fern and wood fern Fd 
noticed in the forest, and hip-high bushes of bog 
laurel and Labrador tea mixed with enormous blue- 
berry bushes laden with fruit the size of giant peas. I 
could pick five or six powdery-blue berries at a time 
without moving my hand. For the first time I can 
remember it didn't matter if a berry dropped. We 
had blueberry pancakes for breakfast. 

Tidal Inlet: The wind has died. Louis and Chess 
and I are motoring up Tidal Inlet in Taku, savoring 
the last of the daylight. Waterfall Fjord would be an 
appropriate name here. Every few minutes we come 
to another falls. Most spill over the cliffs, unnamed 
and rarely seen. Ribbons of white, cascades, plumes. 
One as lacy as Yosemite's Bridal Veil Falls, deep-set 
in a rock vee. Another showy only at the bottom, 
where it splashes from six separate ledges. A third 
hits so hard it spurts up and out. From the side you 
see only an odd, gravity-defying spout of white 


Wave scar shown 
In photo at left 

Vegetated areas 

Extent of wave scar 

A 1958 earthquake triggered 
a landslide at Lituya Bay 's 
upper end. The slide created 
a wave that denuded the 
promontory facing it (shown 
at the left in the photo of 
Lituya Glacier) to an altitude 
of 525 meters (1, 720 feet). 
Three boats were in the bay. 
The island protected one. A 
second washed over the sand- 
spit at the bay s mouth and 
into the ocean. The third was 
destroyed. The drawing 
shows the extent of denuded 

High above us, the fjord wall is gashed by a raw 
arc, the scar of a gigantic landslide, that stretches for 
more than 2 kilometers (1 mile) and looks as high 
as a six- or eight-story building. It is ten times that. 

Austin Post once told me the scar formed as ice 
choking the inlet retreated, withdrawing support and 
leaving an over-steepened slope. This probably hap- 
pened around 1860-70. Parts of the scar have stabi- 
lized enough for alders to grow, but the whole slope 
looks poised to slide more— and it probably does 
slide a little whenever there's an earthquake. 

We cruise along aboard Taku and contemplate 
earth forces that could be capable of so suddenly re- 
setting the clock of life's sequences. Were this slide 
to let go and crash into saltwater, a stupendous wave 
would strip vegetation far beyond reach of the slide 
itself. That happened at Lituya Bay in July 1958. A 
quake along the Fairweather Fault, at the upper end 
of the bay, dislodged rain-soaked rubble from a 
steep headwall. This material sheared off ice at the 
snout of the Lituya Glacier, then, riding an air 
cushion, shot across the toe of an adjacent cliff to an 
elevation of 525 meters (1,700 feet). The force 
hurled icebergs and seals onto high ledges and 
violently uprooted mature spruce. Displaced water 
rose as an incredible wave that ravaged shores even 
at the mouth of the bay, 11 kilometers (7 miles) from 
the headwall. The wave lifted a fishing boat, swept it 
across the moraine guarding Lituya Bay's entrance, 
and smacked it down in the ocean so forcefully the 
seams burst and the boat disassembled, fortunately 
not before the couple aboard could leap into their 
skiff and row off. 

From the air the devastated Lituya Bay cliff scar is 
astonishing. Uprooted trees litter every beach of the 
bay. Seen from a boat, the destruction appears even 
more dramatic. Its full magnitude is immediate, 
without the detachment a plane affords. The soil, 
forest, glacial till, rock, and ice that slid into the 
water is estimated at nearly 400 million cubic meters 
(1.3 billion cubic feet). This appalling mass sent a 
wave racing down-bay probably 250 kilometers (155 
miles) per hour and exerting sufficient pressure to 
splinter trees and rip mussels and barnacles from 
their holds. Lituya Bay shorelands for a kilometer 
(half mile) inland still have recovered only to the 
alder stage. 


Four earlier giant waves- 1936, 1899, 1874, 1854 
— can still be traced by tree damage. Heights 
ranged from some 20 meters (65 feet) to about 130 
meters (425 feet) — gentle foretastes of July 1958. 
Doubtless there have been others, and giant waves 
remain certain for the bay's future, perhaps soon. 
Slopes where the 1958 slide broke loose are still 
unstable and a separate huge inverted vee of 
unconsolidated earth hangs on a cliff near the North 
Crillon Glacier. This new headwall slippage already 
seems to defy gravity. Bedrock geology is responsible 
for slippage. The 1958 quake, eight on the Richter 
scale, produced a 7-meter (23-foot) horizontal dis- 
placement along the Fairweather Fault. With the edge 
of the oceanic plate slipping beneath the continental 
plate offshore and wrinkling the edge into mountain 
ranges— and the lateral slippage of two crustal 
terranes— earthquakes are inevitable. Given the 
walled-in nature of fjords, so are the consequent 
devastating waves. The shifting along the junction of 
the oceanic and continental plates is a tectonic 
C'building") process. The Earth's crust is built of 
adjoining plates which float on a molten core. Uplift 
of the coast comes in jerks. Barnacles still cling 
where bellflowers and Indian paintbrushes bloom. 
The change from tidepool to cliff garden can be 

The coming and going of glaciers can also directly 
raise and lower both the ocean volume and the land 
surface. Worldwide sea level during the Wisconsinan 
Ice Age stood about 100 meters (325 feet) lower than 
it does today. It rose as the glaciers melted and 
released water to the oceans. If Earth's ice were all 
to melt, sea level would rise far more. Fish would 
swim Tokyo's Ginza. Sea anemones would wave 
from Manhattan's World Trade Center. 

Evidence of sea-level fluctuation along the park's 
outer coast includes a wave-cut terrace 30 meters 
(100 feet) above present tide line. Because the 
terrace is recognizable on both sides of the Fair- 
weather Fault, tectonic force cannot explain its 
origin. Most likely it formed during sea-level changes 
produced by glacier ice. Ice a kilometer or two (0.5 
or 1.3 miles) thick is enough to depress bedrock. 
Melting releases this weight, and the land slowly 
rebounds, or rises. 

In Glacier Bay, the rate of rebound is greater than 


anywhere else in southeast Alaska, and even by 
worldwide standards it is spectacular. At Bartlett 
Cove rebound and tectonic mountain-building proc- 
esses produce a 4-centimeter (1.5-inch) yearly rise. On 
the nature trail near park headquarters, dropping down 
the stairs from mature spruce-hemlock forest to a 
zone of young spruce and beach meadow, you step 
onto land newly out of the sea. The stairs' base marks 
the old high tide line. Count a sapling's growth rings, 
then add time for salt to wash from the beach and for 
spruce to germinate, and you can know about how 
long ago the surface changed from sea bottom to dry 
land. Up-bay, release from the weight of the ice is 
more recent than at Bartlett Cove and present 
rebound is even more rapid. The shorelands rising 
fastest now are those close to the mouth of Muir 
Inlet, where glacier retreat began only about a 
century ago. 

With rebound, islands expand noticeably, decade 
by decade, and shoal water shifts, quickly rendering 
inshore marine charts useless. Tide zones and beach 
meadows are constantly born anew. And humans 
experience certain dilemmas. For example, the land 
has risen so decidedly that National Park Service 
employees now can get their boats to and from the 
headquarters dock only when full high tide floods 
the channel. At Gustavus, the politics grow tangled, 
for who owns virgin land? Once the sand and mud of 
these flatlands formed the fill in Muir Inlet. Swept 
southward, that material lay beneath the sea for 
millennia. Now the land has risen and we humans 
puzzle over its ownership. 



So Far As Known 

This personable harbor seal 
pup has hauled out on an 
iceberg. Why not? It was 
probably born on one. 

Field notebooks of summers in the 1970s document 
hour-by-hour seal behavior in Johns Hopkins and 
Muir Inlets. Summer park biologist John McConnell: 

"7(5 June, 2:14 p.m. Earthquake tremor! Two- 
second duration. Ground shook. Rocks fell off north 
side of Inlet. Seals calling all over now. Not much 
diving in. Just up, looking around. Pretty loud boom 
that echoes. No calving on either Muir or Riggs. 

''2:34 p.m. Lost pup has been swimming around 
calling for about 10 minutes. Hauls out. Back in, and 
goes on swimming and calling frantically. No one 
seems to care. . . . One really LOUD call, almost 

''2:42 p.m. Pup really frantic. One single adult in 
water about 60 yards away looking around and 
raising out of water to look. Could this be the 
negligent mother? 

"2:45 p.m. Lost pup comes up to mother-pup 
pair on berg, calling. Looks. They don't even wake 

"2:48 p.m. Single adult swimming in direction of 
lost pup. 

"2:50 p.m. Come together, bump noses, pup 
shuts up and they dive, come up, now swimming off 
to north. Crisis ended. 

"17 June, 4:20 p.m. Mother and two pups playing; 
they all ball up and roll over and over, then dive, 
come up, and do it again. Both pups alternate 
hitching rides on her back till she rolls them off. 
Mother goes to each and bumps noses. 

"4:24 p.m. Here comes a single adult toward the 
threesome. Goes to one pup, touches noses. Now 
swims off with that pup. Other female and pup go in 
different direction. Was it a Muir Inlet baby sitting 
service I watched a moment ago?" 

Former park biologist Greg Streveler one summer 
counted 3,500 seals in Johns Hopkins Inlet. Nearly a 
third that many used to ride the floating ice of 
upper Muir Inlet when East Arm glaciers were still 


discharging bergs into the bay. Seal pupping took 
place there as well, but the pupping went out with the 
ice. Current park biologist Beth Matthews now counts 
nearly 5,000 harbor seals in the Johns Hopkins Inlet, 
and there the Park Service has created a seal pupping 
sanctuary, off limits to cruise ships, boaters, and 
kayakers alike. Until July 1 each year the seals are not 
intruded upon, free to give birth in peace. Throughout 
the rest of the summer, vessels must remain 400 
meters (a quarter mile) away from seals on icebergs. 

Harbor seal pups gain 100 pounds in their first 
month of life. The pups are then weaned off their 
50-percent milkfat diet (compare that with 2-percent 
milkfat for human babies) and left alone to fish for 
themselves. But that early feeding period is critical. 
When approached the skittish seals may scatter, and 
a nursing mother and her pup may not find each 
other again. ''It's being startled that has grave impli- 
cations," Greg Streveler once told me. 'That's what 
leads to separation." 

One is not likely to find a killer whale in the Johns 
Hopkins Inlet, even with such a high concentration 
of possible prey. The orca avoids this extreme habitat 
near the powerful Johns Hopkins Glacier. It is thought 
that the silt-laden waters and ice interfere with the 
orca's ability to hunt. 

"Protecting the seal's habitat here in the bay is 
important," claims Beth Matthews. Although we tend 
to think of Alaska as a pristine place where animals 
flourish, harbor seal populations have been in a 
dramatic and unexplainable decline in the northern 
part of the state. The Johns Hopkins Inlet is home to 
the largest known concentration of these animals. 

Geike Inlet: We've anchored at Shag Cove, just 
inside Geike Inlet, where Chess immediately rigged 
his pole and cast from Taku s cockpit. He said he'd 
add this spot to his world map of places he's caught 
no fish. I've just rowed back from watching salmon 
by the thousands struggle up the creek to spawn in 
freshwater. They rarely feed while spawning. 

Salmon spawning is a spectacle: Carcasses line the 
creek banks, heads a sepulchral white, hooked jaws 
still full of needle teeth, eye sockets empty. Live fish 
thrash against the water's flow, backs above the 
surface, wriggling like snakes, forcing passage over 
cobbles. Sometimes they turn on their sides and 
slither up shallow riffles. Pale underbellies show. 


Yellow eyes seem strained and desperate. 

Once a sudden movement and a loud splash made 
me pivot to look. A huge male had wedged head- 
down between two rocks, caught by water pouring 
forcefully over a log. I watched his struggle, then 
looked away. When I turned back, he'd broken free. 
I counted 33 fish in a 3-meter (10-foot) radius. 
This entire cove was deep beneath ice 150 years ago. 
When the glacier began to wane, runoff streams 
must have carried more silt than fish tolerate. When 
did the salmon arrive? 

Once Louis and I joined Ole Wik in checking on 
whether Dolly Varden had returned to a stream at 
the head of Geike Inlet, not far from Shag Cove. My 
journal of that trip with Ole records: 

"We sit in the dinghy halfway to shore, attention 
riveted on a half-grown wolf pup that trots from 
where it was feeding. It watches us from the willows, 
secure within their protective screen although keep- 
ing ears cocked like twin radars. 

"After a while, the pup moves on, then returns 
with a second pup. Both are black, typical of wolves 
in Glacier Bay— and not an unexpected color, for 
wolves as a whole vary from sand-colored, through 
almost red, to this decided black. The two pups 
stand curious, but unconcerned. For once, there is 
time to focus binoculars and fix a sight indelibly in 

"While the wolves stare at us, a whale rolls barely 
astern of our anchored boat. It blows, smacks the 
water with a flipper so long it's like a wing; then the 
whale submerges. The sudden slap against the water 
startles 200 to 300 crows into circling as a ragged 
black cloud, cawing wildly. Their racket prompts a 
bald eagle into lifting off from somewhere so far 
back in the spruce that we wouldn't have noticed it if 
it hadn't flown. 

"Where but Glacier Bay can you swivel binoculars 
and find such a three-minute sequence of land, sea, 
and air life as prelude for a stream check? We find 
no Dolly Varden, however. Maybe conditions aren't 
yet right. Maybe our seasonal timing is off." 

Glacier streams raging across raw outwash plains 
attract no salmon. But in time as stream conditions 
mature, fish find their way. With them a whole chain 
of life is fostered. Eagles, ravens, and coyotes feed 
on spawned-out salmon carcasses littering the banks. 


The Salmon Economy 

Salmon annually succumb to 
a bizarre frenzy approxi- 
mating the behavior they 
routinely incite in anglers. 
Natural predators catch this 
short-lived fever, too. For the 
brief season of the salmon 
spawning run, birds and 
mammals line the banks and 

plunge into streams to gorge 
on live fish or spawned-out 
carcasses. A stable and di- 
verse ecology seems to con- 
vert overnight to a one-crop 
marketplace, the protein-rich 
salmon economy. Silver, 
chum, sockeye, and pink 
salmon spawn in the park 

streams. Poised to pounce 
and peck, or to pluck them 
from streams and banks, are 
bald eagles (inset), ravens, 
coyotes, wolves, minks, ot- 
ters, seals, black bears, and 
brown/grizzly bears. Some 
predators and their prey even 
seem to observe a tacit truce 

Silver (coho) salmon 

Chum salmon, female 

Sockeye salmon, female 


during the run. In close quar- 
ters they grab what they can 
from this small end of an 
ephemeral gourmet funnel. 
Pragmatically seen, nature 
would appear to transfer food 
wealth from the oceans into 
a protein-starved terrestrial 
food chain. The uncanny 

homing ability of salmon — 
after years at sea they find 
the same stream gravels in 
which they were born — re- 
mains one of nature's great 

Pink (humpback) salmon 


Mink and otter, wolves, black bears and brown/grizzly 
bears take live fish. Seals foray into stream mouths 
to feed on spawners newly arrived at hom^ewater. 

Four Pacific salmon species spawn here: silver, 
chum, sockeye, and pink. Dolly Varden, steelhead, 
cutthroat, and three-spined stickleback also spawn 
in Glacier Bay's freshwater. King salmon frequent 
Bartlett Cove, Berg Bay, and Dundas Bay, but do not 
yet enter streams to spawn, s.f.a.k. — "so far as 
known," as field naturalists a century ago acknowl- 
edged the Hmits of their knowledge. 

Details can prove fascinating. In some Glacier 
Bay streams snails and bivalves are few because the 
water is too low in dissolved minerals for the making 
of shells. Shells are mostly calcium carbonate. On 
the other hand, tiny shrimplike creatures thrive in 
ephemeral ponds fed by melt from glacier remnants. 
Their eggs don't dry out readily and will pass un- 
scathed through the guts of fish or birds. In fact, 
viable eggs have been found in the feces of fish- 
eating birds. This means the eggs have endured a 
double dose of gut acids, first the fish's, then the 

Birds bring crustaceans to newly formed ponds. 
Insects come on their own, to streams as well as 
ponds. The aquatic nymphs of mayflies, stoneflies, 
and caddisflies are equipped with bristles, hooks, 
and suckers for clinging to rocks, so rushing water is 
no problem. Various biting flies are equally able to 
survive immature stream conditions. Even close to 
melting ice in water too cold, rushing, and silt laden 
for other species, blackfly larvae secure themselves 
to rocks by hooking their tails into specially secreted 
silken pads. ''No-see-ums," perpetrators of painful 
bites in their adult stage, also flourish in glacial 
torrents. Ashore in summer, you scarcely escape 
their swarming attack anywhere. Afloat you are safe. 

"A sinuous strip a quarter of a mile wide on the 
landward side of the beach and double that to the 
sea is where the action is," Greg Streveler says. We 
owe the variety and abundance of wildlife in the 
park to this shoreland strip. The shore is the land 
mammal's larder because it links the sea's riches to 
life on land. On the outer coast, red foxes feed 
along the beach on ducks, dead fish, strawberries, 
gooseneck barnacles, and beached whales. Coyotes 
crunch open sea urchins and mussels. Greg once 


watched a brown/grizzly bear dig clams on the outer 
coast, "sand and rocks really flying, its butt sticking 
up out of the hole." Black bears squish open barna- 
cles to eat. Shrews feast on barnacles, mussels, and 
squashed snails. Mountain goats and porcupines eat 
seaweed. Deer do too, but they can't digest it; deer 
have starved to death here, their stomachs full of 
seaweed. Sedges and grasses, available even in winter, 
bring the deer and goats to the shore. Seaweed is just 
a salty sidedish. 

Shorebirds join the beach community while re- 
treating glacier fronts are still close by and floating 
bergs a constant presence. Oystercatchers— the size 
of northern crows, black with naked pink legs like 
stilts, and with bright orange, chopstick bills— are 
my favorites. They eat not oysters, but snails and 
mussels. Louis and I camped at Reid Inlet once and 
filmed oystercatcher hide-and-seek among small, 
stranded icebergs. 

It was a gray June week with the mists clamped to 
the water. Sky and sea, equally wet, differed only in 
texture: the water polished, the clouds dull. For brief 
periods when the murk thinned we could make out a 
vee of scoters flying low to the water in one direction. 
Glaucous-winged gulls, higher, moved in the oppo- 
site direction. Or a fleet of pigeon guillemots might 
be bobbing as if at anchor, each bird a solid black 
fore and aft but with white wing patches separating 
end from end. When the guillemots dove after fish, 
their red legs and feet flashed a momentary finale to 
the upending. 

Mew gulls and arctic terns nested on the foreshore, 
their eggs laid in saucer-shaped scrapings ungraced 
by grass, down, or other softening material. Gulls 
returning to brood duty often first landed on an 
iceberg to look around, their touchdowns like the 
uncontrolled skids of neophyte ice skaters. Arctic 
terns defended nests by dive-bombing and cursing 
intruders. Their targets included Louis and me, mew 
gulls, and the oystercatchers, which cringe comically 
when a tern zeroes in. 

Louis and I knew that a pair of oystercatchers 
nested near the gulls and terns, but where? Both 
male and female stalked about glancing back to be 
sure we were fooled about where their nest was. 
Satisfied we were still watching, they then crouched 
and squirmed as though settling onto eggs. 


The unmistakably marked 
oystercatcher looks like a de- 
signer shorebird. Come too 
near its nest and it breaks 
into paroxysms of conflicting 
body and verbal language. Its 
absurd performance simulta- 
neously combines studied 
stealth with wildly raucous 
screaming. Turns out it 
doesn 't catch oysters, either. 

One morning I chanced upon the two oystercatchers 
apparently at their real nest, well back from the 
highest strand line. They saw me see them.. Looking 
chagrined and uncertain of what to do, they just 
shrieked and flew off. I retreated, stepping only on 
large flat stones to avoid crushing eggs I couldn't 
see. Their spotted shells blend perfectly with the 
rock mosaic left by a retreating glacier. 

Arctic terns commute from Antarctic wintering 
grounds to Glacier Bay, arriving in May while snow 
still covers the ground. They are gone again by 
mid-August. To disrupt such hurried nesting and 
fledging would be unconscionable. The National 
Park Service grew concerned when the present large 
cruise ships began entering the bay. Excursion steam- 
ers of the late 1800s were much smaller. When the 
33,000-ton Arcadia first arrived in 1970, rangers 
watched beaches to see what the ship's wake might 
do. A single errant wave could destroy nests and 
nullify the terns' 32,000-kilometer (20,000-mile) round- 
trip journey. 

Fortunately, a ship moving slowly did no harm- 
probably less than our human presence ashore, no 
matter how carefully we stepped and stayed back 
photographing with long lenses. People are decid- 
edly disturbing to wildlife. Wolves seem reluctant to 
trot their accustomed paths while people are around, 
though their scat shows they're still about. Mountain 
goats will abandon the whole side of a ridge facing a 
camp far below them. 

That same summer of oystercatcher hide-and-seek 
Louis and I filmed at the Ohio State University 
research camp in Wachusett Inlet. Camp was a 
moonscape with ice. Tents sprouted from a bare 
moraine, icebergs floated past, and a kilometer (half 
mile) behind camp the stagnant Burroughs Glacier 
melted into oblivion. It shrank scores of meters 
(hundreds of feet) per year, its ice so brown with 
rock and silt that it hardly looked like a glacier. But 
terrestrial life had already begun staking a claim. 

Snow buntings, trim white-bellied finches, came 
mornings to feed on iceworms, which look like 
wriggling bits of black thread. These distant relatives 
of earthworms live their whole lives in ice. There 
they feed on algae and bacteria, and on organic 
matter and minerals washed along by glacier-melt 
and borne by air currents. The first such worms 


Birds of Sea and Shore 

More than 200 species of 
birds have been recorded in 
the park. Many are best seen 
in or near marine environ- 
ments, which offer them 
abundant and varied food. At 
bay mouths and in narrow 
waters, turbulence stirs up 
plankton, shrimp, and fish to 
the surface. For birds a feed- 
ing frenzy ensues. Critical 
protein sources come within 
diving and skimming distance 
of the water's surface. Large 
flocks of murrelets, kitti- 
wakes, gulls, and northern 
phalaropes gather. Phalaropes 
are feminist: males wear the 
dull plumage and incubate 
the eggs. Phalaropes com- 
mute yearly far down into 
South America. Arctic terns 
commute up to 32,000 kilo- 
meters (20,000 miles) round 
trip each year. 

1 % ^n^M 


Tufted and horned puffins 

Old squaw duck 


^ *^^!!^ 

Glaucous-winged gulls 

Pigeon guillemot 

Least sandpiper 

Arctic terns 




#■ %* 


Kittiwake colony 


Willow ptarmigan know cam- 
ouflage. Both winter and 
summer, these birds blend so 
well with their surroundings 
that you may miss spotting 
them at arm 's length. How 
many do you see in each 

reported anywhere— in 1887— came from the Muir 
Glacier. We now know iceworms occur widely in the 
coast mountains from Washington northward. A few 
years ago, Ohio State researchers flew iceworms 
home with them from Glacier Bay and maintained 
them in the laboratory for more than a year. 
In the esophagi of several, they found cylindrical 
micro-organisms which may secrete an enzyme that 
helps them digest algae. You never know where 
you'll find the base of a food chain. 

One of the glaciologists found a dead shrew 
beneath the Burroughs Glacier when he roped down 
a cavernous melthole to trace water channels. Far 
out on the glacier taking measurements, two men 
were buzzed by a rufous hummingbird and several 
times saw bumblebees. Deer mice plagued the 
Wachusett camp at night. A tundra vole sampled 
every candy bar in one particular sack. 

How can tiny rodents, hummingbirds, or bees 
brave the glacier barrens? Resilience and adapta- 
tions. Hummingbird metabolism permits a sustained 
energy output impossible among mammals. Bumble- 
bees, far from hapless victims of environment, 
can control body temperature. Hike across a glacial 
outwash such as the one that spills from the Case- 
ment Glacier and at the ice face you find buntings 
pouring out territorial song from the sharp crests of 
eskers. Ptarmigan droppings are evident too. The 
birds blend so perfectly with rocks and moss tufts 
that you rarely see them unless and until they move. 

Redpolls and rosy finches may be raiding willow 
catkins for seed and picking insects from where 
scattered fireweed and alder pioneer the gravel. 
Where dryas has started forming mats. Savannah 
sparrows and least sandpipers nest. In alder and 
willow thickets, hatchlings of orange-crown warblers, 
fox sparrows, and even occasional hermit thrushes 
and Oregon juncos harass parents to supply what 
must seem like endless food. Feathers and flight 
muscles are made of mosquitoes, blackflies, midges, 
plant lice, and water beetles. 

Glacier Bay's bird list boasts more than 200 entries. 
Included are species more typical of Arctic tundras 
and Aleutian grasslands than of southeast Alaska. 
They are here because of the glaciers. As vegetation 
sequences progress to the hemlock stage, these birds 
of the barrens largely forsake the park, replaced by 


forest species. On the Bartlett Cove trails you hear 
the plaintive, minor call of varied thrushes and the 
musical notes of Swainson's and hermit thrushes, 
birds common throughout Northwest rain forests. 
Robins are present, their singing— to my ear— like 
that of a cheerful amateur determined to learn to 
carry a tune. Kinglets and siskins flit through tree 
tops in loose, lisping flocks. Three-toed woodpeck- 
ers and blue grouse sound their territorial claims, the 
woodpecker by pounding a dead tree, the grouse by 
releasing air from throat sacs. 

Spring and fall migrations bring birds in, out, and 
through the park in the ebb and flow of an avian 
tide. Loons by the thousands stream north along the 
outer coast in spring. Squadrons of red-necked phal- 
aropes fly low to the sea in early and late summer, 
dropping to feed in tide rips. With winter, old squaw 
ducks and common murres by the tens of thousands 
arrive in Glacier Bay, much of their food needs 
supplied by seabottom dwellers. The shore's mingled 
sea-and-land resources are crucial for birds as well as 
land mammals. 

One misty Reid Inlet morning Louis and I noticed 
a small dark dot swimming our way from the far 
shore. At first we supposed it a seabird, then a seal. 
On it came, purposefully, straight toward our tent. 
Within minutes we watched a black bear step onto 
the beach, shake half dry, and amble from view. 

Land animals are not commonly found going about 
their business so close to the ice, but neither do 
they wholly avoid the glaciers. Near where Margerie 
and Grand Pacific glaciers converge, hikers have 
found brown/grizzly bear and lynx tracks. In Johns 
Hopkins Inlet, Greg once found evidence of a wolf. 
For a while there were mice close to the glacier 
front, probably stowaways in campers' gear. Mar- 
mots eke out an existence near Reid Inlet's entrance, 
their shrill whistle a surprise coming from near sea 
level because these plump woodchuck-cousins are 
highcountry characters throughout the West. The 
elevation seems wrong, but the biome is right. 

Land mammals face their own problems in moving 
back to newly ice-free shores and lowlands. They 
can't come by air, as the first plants do with wind- 
blown seeds and spores, or as the first insects do, 
arriving as winged adults or in bird gullets. Mammals 
must walk or swim. Even for large animals, extensive 





^^. \v^\- 

Pages 82-83: Alaska moose 
are the largest of their spe- 
cies. Sporting broad, flat, and 
lobed antlers, males weigh 
450 to 720 kilograms (1,000 
to 1,600 pounds). Both bull 
and cow have a curious skin 
tab — called a bell— below 
the neck. 

ice or water or mountains may be a formidable 

The two sides of Muir Inlet exemplify the land 
mammals' disadvantage. Plant succession shows no 
real difference between sides of the inlet, nor do 
insect or bird populations. However, the east side 
hosts several more species than the west. From the 
east side a low pass connects from Adams inlet to 
Lynn Canal and so to the interior. But the west side 
of Muir Inlet has no such conduit outside. Bounded 
by ice, mountains, and more saltwater, it is, from the 
standpoint of life, an island hard to reach. 

No true successional stages characterize mammals' 
pursuit of waning ice. No pioneer species regularly 
prepare the way for replacements, as with plants. 
Large mammal firstcomers usually draw on the 
resources of ecologically young terrain part of the 
year, moving elsewhere the rest of the year. Gradually, 
resident populations will build. Moose were first 
seen in the lowlands east of Muir Inlet in the 1950s, 
probably having come over Endicott Gap from Lynn 
Canal. Now you often see moose, or moose sign. 
Moose have begun to round Tlingit Point into lower 
Tarr Inlet and have spread throughout the western 
park, recently to Dundas Bay. 

This is also a barrier: mammals haven't had time 
since the Wisconsinan Ice Age to complete their 
dispersal throughout southeastern Alaska. The white 
shroud of the glacial maximum covered most of the 
region below 600 to 700 meters (2,000 to 2,300 feet) 
elevation, but it left refugia— green arks of continu- 
ing life — north and south of the ice sheet. 
Brown/grizzly bears, moose, muskrats, and snow- 
shoe hares have repopulated southeastern Alaska 
from such northern refugia— so far as known. Black 
bears, wolves, coyotes, deer, and mountain goats 
have come from refugia to the south. Mountain 
slopes in the Glacier Bay region also provided sky 
islands of livable habitat for small creatures during 
the Ice Age. And minor refugia along the park's 
outer coast escaped getting swallowed by ice during 
the whole of the Wisconsinan glacier advance. To- 
day 40 mammal species are listed for the park. 

Greg Streveler speculated that one or more coastal 
refugia may have been large enough for the so-called 
glacier bears to develop as a distinct race of black 
bears. Their coats took on a distinctive steely blue 


color. Indians and 19th-century settlers describe 
these bears as different from black bears and 
brown/grizzly bears both in looks and behavior. 
They stayed apart from the other bears, preferring 
the glacier barrens they probably grew accustomed 
to during the Ice Age. Glacier bears never became a 
species of their own, however, and now they've bred 
back into the black bear population. Even the 
blue-gray coat appears less and less often. 

It's said that only iceworms and glaciologists suf- 
fer when the ice sheets disappear. We should add 
glacier bears to the list. The surest place to see 
one now is the Alaska State Museum. 





The Only Constant Is Change 

Mountain goats are superbly 
adapted for scrambling atop 
rocky crags that would give 
fits to climbers. Their hooves 
have cushioned, skidproof 
pads and their psyches are 
unflappable. Mountain goats 
don 't panic under pressure; 
they retreat deliberately, with 
cool dignity. This pensive 
critter, on Van Horn Ridge 
in mid-June, still must shed 
some winter coat. Those 
foreleg guard hairs grow 18 
centimeters (7 inches) long. 

Winter: I came to Glacier Bay in late January 
once. Perhaps that would be the ideal time for 
anyone's first trip here. White flakes from white 
clouds muffle the world. Low peaks seem hand- 
somely tall compared with summer when they're 
only patched with snow. Spruce and hemlock rim 
the lower bay as giant, white feather plumes. Up- 
bay, pan ice skims the water. It gives way with a 
quiet rasp as your boat cuts through and sends small 
pieces skittering across the unbroken ice. 

The white heads of bald eagles, so conspicuous at 
other seasons, in winter become camouflage. They 
look like additional lumps of snow caught on high 
branches where the birds perch. Occasional blood 
spots and scattered feathers dot the frozen sea, left 
from seabirds that became eagle dinners. Cormo- 
rants fly low, wings whirring as though the birds 
were trying to catch up to their own heads. The 
goldeneye ducks, old-squaws, and murres that have 
arrived for the winter continually up-end themselves 
to feed beneath the surface. Seals rise to stare with 
brown eyes incredibly soft. The seals in winter 
number only about half the bay's summer population 
and most now stay away from the ice. Their proba- 
ble diet is fish, shrimp, and crabs. 

That January I traveled up-bay aboard the Na- 
tional Park Service supply boat Nunatak, joining a 
group led by Greg Streveler, to make a winter 
wildlife census in Adams Inlet. It didn't take long to 
begin the count. As we motored ashore from Nunatak 
the first morning, a river otter streaked through slabs 
of pan ice that lay on the lowtide shore like oversized 
almond bark candy. Above the jumbled slabs we 
found three crab shells, apparently the otter's dinner 
midden. Rock sandpipers made a close-packed clus- 
ter of 80 to 90 black dots where a river emptied into 
the inlet. While strapping on skis, I noticed a midge 
the size and form of a mosquito. It was tiptoeing 
across the snow, wings held straight up over its back. 


Such insects are suited to winter because they spend 
most of their Hves as aquatic larvae and need only a 
day or so out of water to mate and lay eggs and die. 
For that bit of time they can cope with almost any 
weather. Spiders also stalked the snow as we set off. 
The hardy spiders apparently have a built-in anti- 
freeze to pump through their bodies to keep them 
from freezing. Not long after we had strode out on 
our skis we heard the birdlike trill of a red squirrel, a 
familiar call to people in many latitudes. 

Our plan was to check for animal tracks along 
beaches, creeks, and at the junctions between slopes 
and adjoining flats, chief winter routes of animals. 
Fresh snow skimmed a firm crust. Mountains rimmed 
a white world. Brown traceries of alder and cotton- 
wood branches rose out of snow perhaps 40 centi- 
meters (16 inches) deep. 

Wolverine tracks laced the edge of a thicket— 
hiding place for ptarmigan— and farther on we spot- 
ted the wolverine loping along the beach. Wolf 
tracks were frequent. We found one shallow depres- 
sion in the snow where a lone wolf had rested, 
protected from wind by a low bank. Greg guessed it 
came a long distance or it wouldn't have lain down. 
This wasn't a bedding ground because no urine 
yellowed the snow. Out on the flat three sets of 
tracks overlapped and braided as they followed the 
river bank. Turning onto a high moraine, they van- 
ished in the alder. All the wolf scat we found held 
mountain goat hair. 

Just seven winters before, Greg had counted more 
than 200 of the goats in the Adams Inlet area. But on this 
trip we saw none, despite the fact that we knew what 
we were looking for and had spotted and watched the 
superbly adapted mountain denizens elsewhere. Two 
successive winters of deep snow brought trouble for 
the animals. Browse was buried. Even beach salt 
grass and sedge were covered. Getting around was 
equally troublesome, because sharp hooves and deep 
snow make a poor combination. 

Wolves found the severe conditions less crucially 
difficult. Their broad feet upholstered with stiff hair 
facilitate snow travel. And potential food for the 
wolves was ample that winter because the mountain 
goats were conveniently forced down to the shore. 
Predators don't, as biologists formerly believed, nec- 
essarily rely exclusively on weak animals. In this 


case the wolves might take animals in any state of 
health, eating only choice parts— there's more where 
that came from. Predator numbers go up; prey 
numbers drop. Then the pendulum swings and preda- 
tor numbers drop, maintaining balance over time. 
Populations and species seem to be what matter, not 

Summer Aboard Ginjur: My journal from the re- 
search boat Ginjurnotes: "Charles Jurasz greeted Austin 
Post saying, 'You're the bottom man and I'm the 
whale man.' Biologist and glaciologist then disap- 
peared into the wheelhouse to pencil notations onto 
marine charts." The Ginjur is a converted 15-meter 
(50-foot) Navy ship-to-shore transport aboard which 
biologist-owner Chuck Jurasz is researching acoustics, 
which is why he wanted Growler's depth information 
for Glacier Bay's underwater basins. Additional work 
will show details: where is the bottom soft and 
sound-absorbing and where does bare bedrock re- 
flect sound back into the water, perhaps echoing it, 
or— for a whale— accentuating it painfully? 

Beyond Ginjur s fantail I watched chunky little 
murrelets flip themselves below the surface, then 
bob back up, each with a silver fish dangling from its 
bill. Humpback whales also feed on these capelin: 
45-ton monarchs swallowing 84-gram (3-ounce) prey. 
Humpbacks sometimes lunge to the surface with their 
mouths agape, scooping in a ton of water and 
capeUn or krill, and opening out their accordian- 
pleated undersides. Powerful throat muscles then 
force the water through curtains of baleen, catching 
prey as though in a sieve. The pleats fold shut. 

Chuck has seen three whales working together, 
rising with the dark sides of their flippers uppermost, 
only to suddenly turn them over, flashing the white 
undersides. Perhaps the light color of the humpbacks' 
extraordinary flippers, far longer than those of any 
other whale, helps to concentrate the feed. He has 
also watched the whales flick their great tails forward, 
whooshing the chowderlike water toward their open 
mouths. Chuck has seen this scores of times but — 
and this he emphasizes— only by two individuals: 
Garfunkle and Gertrude. 

''Garf is innovative," says Chuck, who recognizes 
these individuals by the distinctive color patterns of 
flippers and flukes. "Garf's always coming up with 
something the other whales aren't doing. He started 


Marine Energy Cycles in Summer . . . 

Long summer days pay rich these plants are Hfe's energy 

returns for marine-feeding base here. As they prosper 

wildhfe. Copious sunHght in summer the food chain 

causes microscopic plants to burgeons, 
proliferate. With seaweeds, 

Bald eagle uj) 

k . salmon W 


Andin Winter 

Marine life grows much more 
sparse in the winter as pan 
ice and the short days stifle 
plant production. Only bot- 
feeders and marine crea- 

Bald eagi 

tures that live off body 
reserves boast year-round 
populations. These suffice to 
support some waterfowl over 

gull W 

Common murre 

Old squaw duck 

[arbor seal 

Humpback and Minke Whales 

Whales are grouped as either 
baleen or toothed. The hump- 
back and minke are baleen 
whales. They have no teeth. 
They feed by filtering their 

food from seawater with comb- 
like, paired rows of horny ba- 
leen plates, the whalebone of 
Victorian corsets. Humpbacks 
(below) in Glacier Bay feed 
mostly on krill (below left) 
and small schooling fish, such 
as capelin— at about 6(X) li- 
ters (150 gallons) per mouth- 
ful, one ton per bellyful. 



Minkes (below right) prefer 
fish in these waters. Adult 
humpbacks average 12 to 15 
meters (40 to 50 feet) long 
and weigh about 2.5 tons per 
meter (about three quarters 
of a ton per foot). Decimated 
by whaling, these coast-loving 
creatures are now protected 
under the Endangered Species 

Act and international agree- 
ments. Minke whales grow to 
about 10 meters (33 feet) long 
in northern waters. Among 
the large whales they are fast 
swimmers— up to 32 kilome- 
ters per hour (20 mph). Minkes 
are the most heavily hunted ba- 
leen whales, since taking others 
has been more restricted. 


The Orca (or Killer) Whale 

Orca whales are also known as 
killer whales. These toothed 
whales can hunt in packs, 
called pods, and have been 
dubbed wolves of the sea. 
They eat fish, sea lions, seals, 
porpoises, sharks, squid, and 
other whales. Orcas have 
even killed blue whales, the 

largest creatures— at 100 
tons, or the weight of about 
2,250 men— that the world 
has ever known. Orca adults 
average about 7 meters (23 
feet) long and can sustain 
speedtrtiP to 45 kilometers 

per hour (29 mph). The 
largely triangular dorsal fin 
may reach nearly 2 meters (6 
feet) high on old males, its 
prominence and their black- 
and-white markings on belly, 
flanks, and head make the 
orca unmistakable. Orcas eat 
a staggering variety of ma- 

rine animals, including warm- 
blooded species. The range 
of foods available to them is 
greatly enhanced by their 
diving ability. Orcas can dive 
to nearly 1 ,000 meters (3,400 
feet); Glacier Bay isn't that 
deep, however. When whales 
dive, blood is forced from 

their muscles into the brain 
and the buildup of carbon 
dioxide in their lungs does 
not force them to breathe, as 
it would humans. Killer- 
whale attacks on boats are 
both rare and largely undocu- 
mented. One killing— unsub- 
stantiated— of a fisherman 

off Baja California was re- 
ported in 1977. The orca's 
rapacity is exaggerated in 
whaling literature from un- 
scientific samplings of one 
specimen's stomach contents. 
Docile in captivity and keenly 
intelligent, orca whales are 
star aquarium performers. 


feeding this way one summer off Johns Hopkins and 
the next year, while following him, Gertrude began 
doing it too." 

Bubble-net feeding? Chuck first noted this in 1968. 
He saw bubbles rising in a ring where he knew a 
submerged whale was. "Hey, it's letting out air 
underwater instead of at the surface," he thought. 
Then he saw the water come alive with herring and 
the whale rising through the fish, jaws open. The 
whale was working like men do in a hatchery, using 
bubbles to shunt fish to where they're wanted. The 
bubble net worked nicely to concentrate the fish in 
position to swallow! All previous whale records— 
s.f.a.k. — mention this feeding method only once. 
This is in a French report written years ago by a 
Norwegian whaler in the Antarctic. 

The paucity of written records is a problem. "We 
know about whales from chasing and killing them," 
Chuck explains. "You can read a lot about anatomy 
and the measurements taken from carcasses. But 
until very recently you couldn't read much about the 
living animals. What we're getting aboard Ginjur is 
basic data on how humpbacks feed in Alaska: what 
they go after, how they capture it, and where they 
have to go to find it." From the late 1960s to '70s, 20 
to 24 humpbacks summered here. But in 1978 and on 
into the '80s, fewer whales came. In the past few 
years, numbers are back up to historic levels. Why? 
Despite research, nobody knows. 

Investigators find that an enormous quantity of 
humpback food is available in Glacier Bay waters, 
but it quite likely varies at times. Also, park waters 
may be somewhat noisier than those nearby. 

Noise from ship engines and small boat motors 
seems more noticeable here than nearby, and vessel 
traffic here is greater. 

Understanding has barely begun. Consequently, 
park regulations require staying at least 400 meters 
(0.25 mile) away from whales; and courses for water 
travel are at times restricted. Today's humpback 
whales have few havens. Extinction threatens— and 
extinction lasts forever. 

Disrupted balances inevitably domino. Take sea 
otters as an example. La Perouse, remarking on their 
beauty and abundance along Glacier Bay's outer 
coast, estimated that a Lituya Bay factory could take 
10,000 skins per year from the coast. Only a few 


years after La Perouse's visit, a Russian vessel arrived 
bringing Aleut hunters and 450 of their baidarkas, 
fleet skin boats much like Eskimo kayaks. Within 
mere days, men stowed 1,800 sea otter skins into the 
ship's hold. Most were from the Aleuts' kills, but 
many were from trade with resident Tlingits. Lituya 
Bay was a prime sea otter hunting ground. 

Sea otters were killed off along this coast by the 
dawn of the 20th century, and the effects of such a 
loss are only now beginning to be understood. The 
entire marine community is involved, with repercus- 
sions of implicit change rippling all throughout it. 
Sea otters feed on sea urchins, which in turn feed on 
kelp. Eliminate the otters and urchins increase, 
eating far more kelp. A plethora of plants and 
animals next are affected, because kelp beds are the 
great nearshore nurseries of many ocean species. 
Eventually seabirds, eagles, seals, bears, and even 
people are bound to feel the change. 

Dundas Bay, aboard Taku: Rain during the night. 
Taku bobbed considerably, especially at the turn of 
the tide. Yesterday we went ashore to explore, 
wearing every bit of rain gear we possess. Today will 
be the same. Checking the long abandoned salmon 
cannery here in Dundas Bay, we found the piHngs 
deeply worn at the base, etched by saltwater and 
time. Some of the pilings associated with the old 
cannery have already fallen down. Those that still 
remain standing look uncannily like trees that have 
been gnawed by a beaver. Nearby, other timbers 
mark what once had been a shipway, and there is a 
wrecked barge lying stranded at the hightide line. 

Near the forest edge is a cabin with a sign reading 
"Government Property." The door is unlocked but a 
note asks you to close the cabin carefully when 
leaving, to keep out mice. Inside, there's an oil- 
barrel stove and a pencilled invitation to ''Have a 
warm time." Old magazines include Quest with an 
article on whale watching promoted on the cover 
but missing inside. A guest log requests "Please sign 
in," but names from the last five years take up less 
than a page. Earlier pages have been torn out. A 
note addressed "Dear Nunatak'' and dated three 
years ago asks that the cabin's mattress be taken to 
Bartlett Cove. The mattress still is here. 

Dave Bohn writes in Glacier Bay, the Land and 
the Silence that this cannery started in 1898. Sixty- 


Tlingit Indians 

Tlingit Indians living in 
Hoonah, a village diagonally 
across Icy Strait from Gla- 
cier Bay, have proud family 
songs and stories about ad- 
vancing ic6 that drove their 
ancestors from Tcukanedi, 
the Valley of the River of 
Grass. This was probably on 

former shorelines in lower 
Glacier Baty. There stood a 
village. And there a young 
girl, ritually confined during 
her first menses, violated cul- 
tural dictates and in her lone- 
liness called to glaciers on 
the slope above. Her cries 
brought them down.i^javer- 

rode the people's lands and 
waters. It obliterated the seal 
hunting grounds and the 
meadows and muskegs rich 
with berries and fleshy roots: 
It covered the streams ideal 
for-summer and fall salmon 
fishing. 'Gone were the 
beaches and sea cliffs where 

Artist Belmore Browne served 
as a guide in the Ghcier Bay 
area. He painted from nature. 
Here he depicts a Tlingit 
hadarka in modern time, out- 
fitted with oarlocks and oars. 

the spring egg gathering was 

easy that Tlingits today 
till speak of "picking" eggs, 
not hunting them. The Tlingit 
blan fled first to the Home 
Shore, east of today'S^cur- 
sion Inlet. Then in time tfey - 
fled across Icy Strait to 
Hoonah. It was the Little Ice 

Age glacier advance that had 
driven these peoples from 
Glacier Bay. Before their an- 
cestral shores had melted 
free again, their aboriginal 
days collided with the arrival 
of Europeans, and life began 
a new Bnd radically differ- 
ent era. 


f'i • J rm-*^ 

*v^ ^i^ 















Joe and Muz Ibach (above) 
built their cabin (left) about 
1 940 at Reid Inlet. Their gold 
operations, supplemented 
with gardening and foraging, 
kept them alive, but that 's all. 
Some years they went in the 
hole for freight and process- 
ing. One year they netted $13. 

one men worked here, half of them Chinese, the 
others Caucasian and Thngit fishermen who sup- 
phed salmon. A 1912 photo shows about 40 houses 
along the beach north of the cabin. Now none is 

From our anchorage we have two objectives ashore: 
Buck Harbeson's place and the old Tlingit cemetery 
up the river. Harbeson, a prospector, died here in 
1964 alone in his cabin. He had come 33 years earlier 
to work on Doc Silvers' claim. Silvers had arrived 
with his wife in 1928. The rain and the silence of our 
few days in Dundas Bay were theirs year-round, 
although canneries, salteries (the predecessors of 
canneries), small mines, and fox farms then ac- 
counted for a human population here far greater 
than today's. A farflung neighborliness must have 
prevailed as an antidote for the cabin's poignant 
isolation or, perhaps, as an irritant for any hardcore 
recluse. Before the arrival of miners and cannery 
men, fox farmers and squatters, the Tlingits lived 

The remnants of Harbeson's cabin remind me of 
Reid Inlet and the Ibachs' little barn-red cabin. 
When Louis and I stayed there squares of wallpaper 
samples covered the walls of the Ibachs' back room. 
Halves of a Mother's Day card were tacked over the 
two bunks, the cover picture— roses— above one 
bunk, the inside message over the other. Dave 
Bohn's book includes a snapshot of the Ibachs 
(above). They have that gentle expression frequent 
among people living alone in the wilds. You expect a 
grizzled, weary, hard look. Instead there's this incredi- 
ble innocence. Jim Huscroft had that look. He raised 
foxes on Cenotaph Island in Lituya Bay from around 
World War I until his death, alone, in 1939. 

The 1936 Lituya Bay wave damaged Huscroft's 
cabin. The 1958 wave demolished it. Pieces of stove- 
wood and scraps of plumbing scattered through the 
alder are all that tell of its presence now. Human 
marks have never been great in this country. 

Gales today are reported on the outer coast. 
Winds to 60 knots and 4.5-meter (15-foot) seas. 
Louis is ashore with the water cans at a stream that 
flows over granite boulders in an idyllic, mossy, 
rain-forest setting. Chess stands in the cockpit fishing. 
We've decided against going ashore to look for the 
Harbeson cabin. Nor will we chance taking the 


Jim Huscroft raised foxes on 
Cenotaph Island in Lituya 
Bay from about World War I 
until he died there alone in 
1939. The 1958 wave in Lituya 
Bay wiped out his cabin. 

dinghy up-river to the THngit cemetery. This anchor- 
age is too poor and too windy for all of us to leave 
Taku. We thought about holing up and waiting, but 
have decided to head out. 

Gray sky, gray sea. The shore shows only as a low 
blue-black streak. No mountains, no detail. We 
failed to explore either cabin or cemetery but the 
day's mood and the unseen traces of humanity 
beyond the porthole now merge into remembrance 
of having once rowed to a grave island opposite 
today's Tlingit village of Hoonah. You walk across 
the beach there, climb a bank, and step into the 
dripping hemlock forest. Headstones are decorated 
with marble cherubs and crosses that include Rus- 
sian Orthodox crosses with a second, dipped crossbar. 
Indian clan crests mingle with the Christian symbols. 
A marble grizzly drapes over one headstone. A 
wolf head tops another, jaws open, teeth and tongue 
realistically carved. There are marble salmon, dogfish, 
eagles, ravens, and a stone chiefs hat embellished 
with a wolfs face which is outlined with abalone 

Step among such graves and you feel a shiver of 
time and of intersecting cultures. Talk with Indian 
villagers and you feel it even more. The mother of 
one of our Hoonah friends watched the Russian flag 
come down and the 35-star American flag go up in 
1865 at Sitka. The entire English-speaking era in 
Alaska spans just two generations. 

Go further back in human time and you come to 
the tale of ice forcing the Chookaneidi' people out of 
Glacier Bay. Further still, and you're reading arche- 
ology reports. Near Point Couverden— where I found 
the best huckleberry picking of my life — Dr. Robert 
Ackerman of Washington State University exca- 
vated a site that radiocarbon dates as 10,000 years 
old. The Ground Hog Bay site is one of only two 
comparably old sites known so far in Alaska. The 
other is on nearby Admiralty Island. 

Bits of charcoal give the date. With them lay stone 
choppers, gravers, scrapers, and tiny blades techni- 
cally called microblades, significant because they 
represent a distinct, and sophisticated, tool manufac- 
turing technique found on both the Russian and 
American sides of Bering Strait. A paint stone was 
also found at Ground Hog Bay: part of a woman's 
cosmetic kit? a shaman's medicine kit? the palette 


an artist used in painting hide? 

The Ground Hog Bay site now stands 13.3 meters 
(44 feet) above sea level, or it did in 1965 when 
Ackerman and his crew first tested their discovery. 
Now it must be minutely higher, rebounding as the 
ice continues to retreat. When the fires of early 
peoples flickered there the site was at beach level, 
for artifacts and charcoal lay in beach gravel. Be- 
neath the beach gravel are glacial deposits. Layers of 

Taku 's voyage is ending. Two porpoises are close 
off the starboard bow. A distant storm petrel flies 
low to the water, utterly controlled. We're heading 
for Elfin Cove and from there to Juneau to reboard 
the ferry. Are we returning to reality or are we 
leaving it? 






Guide and Adviser 

Cape Krusenstern 
National Monument 

Bering Land Bridge 
National Preserve 


Noatak National Preserve 

Gates of the Arctic 
National Park and Preserve 

Katmai National 
Park and Preserve 

Aniakchak National 
Monument and Preserve 

Lake Clark Nationa 
Park and Preser\/e 



Yukon-Charley Rivers- 
National Preserve 



Kenai Fjords National Park 






~Wrangell-St Elias 
National Park and Preserve 




/Klondike Gold Rush 
Skagway ^ National Historical Park 

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve— •Haines 

Sitka National Historical Parkx 


I Prince Rupert 




Q ^ 



Klondike Gold Rush 
/National Historical Park 



250 500 Kilometers 




Getting to Glacier Bay 

Glacier Bay National Park and Pre- 
serve lies west of Juneau and can be 
reached only by plane or boat. The 
only road merely connects Gustavus 
and its airfield to park headquarters at 
Bartlett Cove (11 kilometers/7 miles). 
There is no link with the Alaska high- 
way system. 

Alaska Airlines provides daily jet 
service from Juneau to Gustavus (about 
30 minutes) in the summer season from 
mid-May to mid-September. Passengers 
are transported between Gustavus and 
Bartlett Cove by bus or taxi. Year- 
round air service to Gustavus is also 
available by small plane. Scenic flights, 
charters, and air taxi service, including 
floatplane service, are offered in sum- 
mer by a concessioner at Glacier Bay 
Lx)dge, and year-round out of Gustavus, 
Hoonah, and Juneau. Write to the park 
superintendent— address at right— for 
a list of operators. 

Topical Reference 

Coastal Map 106 

Park and Preserve Map 108 

Weather and Seasons 110 

Naturalist Programs 112 


and Services 112 

Trips Up the Bay 114 


the Backcountry 115 

Armchair Explorations 121 

Precautions 121 

Nearby Attractions 123 

For More Information Contact 

Superintendent, Glacier Bay 
National Park and Preserve, 
P.O. Box 140, Gustavus, AK 
or glba_administration@npsgov 
by e-mail. 

By Boat or Ship Boat transportation 
from Juneau to Gustavus and limited 
tour boat service from Juneau to Gla- 
cier Bay may be available from May 
until early fall, but you must inquire 
before making plans. Charter boat ar- 
rangements are sometimes possible out 
of Juneau or Gustavus. Write to the 
Juneau Chamber of Commerce, or 
Gustavus Visitors Association, P.O. Box 
167, Gustavus, AK 99826. Private boats 
are welcome, but a free vessel permit is 
required from June through August. 
Write ahead to the park for special 
regulations. (For boat service at Gla- 
cier Bay see Trips Up the Bay. ) 

Write to the park for a list of ship 
and tour boat companies that offer 
Alaska cruises featuring a day in Gla- 
cier Bay. On such cruises you will want 
sun, wind, and rain protection gear so 
that you can enjoy being on deck, and 
binoculars for scenery and wildlife. 

Pages {04-[05: At 1:30 a.m. 
on May 23 at this campsite 
on Brady Glacier, only the 
tent fabric glows warm red. 

Pages 108-109: Some man- 
agement regulations for the 
preserve area — at upper left 
on your map — may differ 
from those normally associ- 
ated with National Park Ser- 
vice areas. For information 
check with a ranger or write 
the superintendent. 


Cape Faityveather [ ^ a>' 


Mount Quincy Adams 



-Ji Mount Salisbury 

^ • 12,000ft 1 

Lituya Mountain • -^ • 

11.750ft -5- 

3582m ^ 

Mount Abbe 

\uva G/g 


"^ Mount Bertha 

"7^ 10.204ft 

^ 3110m 


<<^ Mount Crilloi 




,\ Mount 
\a^ La Perou 


10 Kilometers 

Historic extent of 

To Haines Junction and 

.Vhitehorse, Yukon Territory 

and Fairbanks, Alaska 


Weather and Seasons 

This is a land of glaciers. Clouds make 
and perpetuate glaciers, so, for weeks 
at a stretch, so-called "good" weather 
may mean a day of only scant rain. 
Clear days rate as blue-sky days, and 
most agree such weather is best. But 
don't despair on gray days. Distant 
views are blocked, but mist hangs above 
the water, first swaddling, then releas- 
ing, nearby peaks. The bay seems to 
brood, to be mysterious. Gray days are 
typical, although rain usually is light 
and intermittent. May and June usually 
bring the most sunshine and the least 
rain, but never trust statistics here. 
The visitor season runs from mid-May 
through mid-September. 

Generally, weather runs cool in sum- 
mer and surprisingly mild in winter, 
with abundant rainfall all year. Rainfall 
generally increases as the summer 
progresses into early fall. Bring cloth- 
ing for possible below-freezing temper- 
atures, no matter the month. Carry full 
rain protection even aboard ship— for 
head, torso, legs, and feet— so you can 
be on deck in all weather. 

Layer your clothing: several light- 
weight shirts and sweaters worn under 
a windproof , rainproof parka or jacket 
offer a range of temperature readiness 
outdoors. Protect wrists, throat, and 
head against heat loss with cap, high 
turtlenecks, and sleeve cuffs. (Hikers 
and kayakers please read clothing and 
gear advice under Enjoying the Back- 
country.) The maritime climate mod- 
erates and mutes differences in the 
change of seasons. In April bears come 
out of hibernation. Waterfowl begin 
coming through. Seabirds arrive to nest, 
and hummingbirds return. Seals give 
birth beginning in late May. The first 
whales usually arrive in mid-May to 
begin foraging on the krill and small 
fish that will sustain them, as stored 
fat, through the winter. 

Waves of color along the shore tell 
you what's happening to the calendar. 
Green leaves burst from lowland wil- 
low and alder in May. Alpine meadows 
turn green in July. Fireweed blossoms 
paint the upper beach rose-purple from 
July to mid-August. By late August, 
cottonwoods glow golden. In late sum- 
mer and early fall the snow is gone 
from the ridges and low peaks. Berries 
ripen in abundance, and salmon mi- 
grate into the rivers. Whales and sum- 
mer birds begin to leave. During starry 
nights the aurora borealis or northern 
lights appear. 

Insects, Insects, Insects Alaska is no- 
torious for the ferocity of its biting 
insects. Gnats and flies are worse than 
mosquitoes here. Aboard ship you'll 
probably not be troubled. But ashore 
. . . you may see mountain goats with 
their muzzles buried in snow to escape 
getting bitten. Or you may see a cloud 
of insects encircling a bear. 

Higher country is generally worse 
for bugs than the low country. Some 
years are plain awful — mosquitoes, 
deerflies, horseflies, white sox, and no- 
see-ums are all out for blood. Most 
years aren't that bad. But bring insect 
repellant. Beaches often have enough 
breeze to hold biting insects to a mini- 
mum. Bushes can fairly swarm with 

Backpackers hike along a 
crevasse, a deep fissure in 
the ice, on Geikie Glacier in 
mid- August. This former tide- 
water glacier has retreated 
high above its inlet on the 
bay 's west shore. 


I A 

Naturalist Programs 

Park ranger/naturalists lead hikes daily 
in summer from Glacier Bay Lodge, 
and they board cruise ships and tour 
boats to answer your questions and 
interpret the scenery and wildlife. Ex- 
hibits housed in the visitor center por- 
tray the park's glacier story, the return 
of life as ice retreats, and the marine 
energy cycle. Exhibits on the dock 
treat whales and marine life. 

Films about Glacier Bay are shown 
daily in summer at the visitor center. 
Naturalists give presentations in the 
evenings. Both events take place in the 
auditorium. Schedules are posted in 
the visitor center. Rangers can be found 
in the visitor center— upstairs level of 
Glacier Bay Lodge — and can suggest 
the best areas to visit during your stay 
or answer questions. 

Up-bay, rangers are stationed at Blue 
Mouse Cove in summer and offer infor- 
mation and help in emergencies. 

Free literature from the Park Service 
and various publications sold through 
the nonprofit Alaska Natural History 
Association are available. They deal 
with such topics as the humpback 
whales, bear safety, and intertidal life 
at Bartlett Cove. The free park news- 
paper tells you where to get informa- 
tion about the day's events and provides 
general Glacier Bay information, in- 
cluding safety precautions and impor- 
tant management regulations. 

Accommodations and Services 

Glacier Bay Lodge, a concession and 
the only hostelry in the park, operates 
from about mid-May to mid-September. 
The rooms are motel-style. Make room 
reservations well in advance. The central 
unit offers lobby, dining room, and bar. 
Full meal and bar services are open to 
all, not just to the lodge's guests. Less 
expensive dorm rooms are also avail- 
able. For reservations write: Glacier Bay 
Park Concession, Inc., 226 2nd Avenue 
West, Seattle, WA 98119-4204. Several 
family-operated bed and breakfasts and 
inns in Gustavus offer rooms and meals. 

Campground The National Park Ser- 
vice maintains a campground at Bart- 
lett Cove (no reservation or fees 
required). Facilities include bearproof 
food caches, outhouses, and fire wood. 
Campground stays are limited to 14 
days maximum. Bring all equipment 
and supplies. Gustavus has only one 
small general store and grocery. Juneau 
is the nearest full-supply point. Glacier 
Bay Lodge usually sells white gas but 
no other campstove fuels. Pets must be 
leashed at Bartlett Cove and are pro- 
hibited in the backcountry. 

Bartlett Cove Concession A dock fa- 
cility at Bartlett Cove sells No. 2 diesel 
fuel and gasoline for boats. Limited 
time tie-up space is available. Anchorage 
is good. A tidal grid facilitates hull 
inspection and repair. Limited snack- 
type groceries are sold at the lodge. 
The lodge's showers, laundromat, pub- 
lic phone, dining room, bar, and gift 
shop are open to all, not just to lodge 

Bartlett Cove Activities Be sure to 
take in the daily naturalist programs at 
the visitor center. Schedules are posted. 
You can also hike the trails. A short 
trail leads through the forest and along 


the beaches to the dock. The other 
trail meanders by a tidal lagoon and 
into the forest to the Bartlett River 
estuary (7.2 kilometers/4.5 miles round 
trip). In May and June birdsong is 
everywhere, as bird migrations are at 
their peak. In June and July forest and 
beach flowers bloom, and berries start 
to ripen. Take your pick of strawber- 
ries, blueberries, salmonberries, and 
several others. But don't pick the poi- 
sonous baneberry! In late summer you 
can watch salmon enter the Bartlett 
River to spawn, one of the world's 
great natural events. August and Sep- 
tember bring the onset of fall colors. 
Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl con- 
centrate in the lagoon for fall migration. 

Fishing An Alaska fishing license is 
required in the park. Licenses are sold 
in Juneau and Gustavus, at Glacier Bay 
Lodge, or by mail. Halibut and salmon 
are the chief sport fish. Some freshwa- 
ter streams and lakes harbor Dolly 
Varden and cutthroat trout. 

Margerie Glacier's ice front 
(top) looms high above the 
serene waters of Tarr Inlet. 
In a boat this big, this may be 
as close as you can get to 
Canada — see map — only to 
be stopped short by ice, the 
Grand Pacific Glacier. 

Strawberries thrive in this 
moist, marine climate, and 
they are not averse to dis- 
turbed land and sandy soils. 


Trips Up the Bay 

Do take an excursion up-bay. The near- 
est tidewater glacier is about 70 kilo- 
meters (43 miles) from Bartlett Cove. 
Cruise ships and tour boats generally 
spend a leisurely day traveling to at 
least one glacier front so passengers 
can watch the birth of icebergs. A 
concessioner-operated tour boat de- 
parts the lodge every morning for a 
nine-hour trip up the bay for looks at 
icebergs, glaciers, and wildlife. Park 
ranger/naturalists accompany both 
cruise ships and tour boats. Some con- 
cessioners offer overnight boat trips in 
summer. These are often heavily booked, 
so inquire way ahead if possible. 

Backcountry hikers, campers, and 
kayakers can be let off by boat and 
picked up again at designated points 
up-bay. Make reservations in advance. 
Floatplane taxi service often can be 
arranged, but rigid kayaks cannot be 
transported by floatplane. 

Guided kayak trips and kayak rentals 
are available at Bartlett Cove. Contact 
the park for current information. 

Whale and Seal Watching Compara- 
tively few people have ever seen a 
whale in the wild. And while nobody 
guarantees you will see humpback 
whales, chances are good in June, July, 
and August. Please remember: whales 
need peace more than you need a 
close look. Don't pursue whales. Let 
binoculars and long lenses close the 
gap. Minke whales occasionally enter 
Glacier Bay. So do orcas (killer whales), 
and porpoises are common. Boaters 
mostly see humpback whales, which 
usually just flash their arched backs 
capped with a small fin. Occasionally, 
however, humpbacks display their full, 
prodigious dimensions in leaps from 
the water, called "breaching." Whales 
react to boats in various ways. They 
sometimes slap the water with their 

side flippers, called "finning," or with 
their flukes, called "tail lobbing " Hump- 
backs may also react simply by moving 
away from the boat or even abandoning 
the area. The North Pacific Ocean 
population of humpback whales now 
stands at only about 2,000 individuals. 
They are so scarce worldwide they are 
protected under the Federal Endan- 
gered Species Act. They arrive here 
from their calving grounds near Ha- 
waii with a purpose: to eat enough to 
store the fat needed to see them through 
the winter. Humpbacks do not feed 
year round. 

Glacier Bay's harbor porpoises are 
considered one of the world's few 
untrammeled populations. More than 
a hundred have been counted feeding 
together in Sitakaday Narrows where 
tide rips bring nutrient-rich bottom 
water to the surface. You may see Dall 
porpoises in Icy Strait or in the lower 
bay playing in your vessel's bow wake. 
Harbor seals are seen almost anywhere 
in Glacier Bay waters. Great throngs 
ride pack ice in upper tidewater-glacier 
inlets during early summer's pupping 
season. Don't approach them during 
mid-May to mid-June, the crucial weeks 
of mother-pup bond formation. Dis- 
turbance may cause a mother to aban- 
don her young permanently. Certain 
death ensues for the hapless pup. 


Enjoying the Backcountry 

Camper orientations, provided at least 
twice daily by rangers, are required if 
you are planning to camp in the park. 
Bear-resistant food canisters are pro- 
vided free of charge at your camper 
orientation. Plan carefully so you are 
well supplied but not overburdened 
with gear. You will meet wilderness on 
its terms, not yours. Count on rain: 
May and June average the least, August 
and September grow steadily wetter. 
Most years, snow lingers well into June 
in the low country and blankets mead- 
ows into July or even August. 

Bring good raingear, a tent with wa- 
terproof fly, a rain cover for your pack, 
waterproof matches, and dry bags if 
you are kayaking. Then expect to be 
wet part of the time anyway. Wool 
clothing or synthetic pile is advisable, 
because it retains warmth while wet. 
Cotton and many synthetics do not. 
However, synthetic-fill sleeping bags 
and jackets provide more insulation 
when wet and can be wrung half dry. 
By contrast, down bags and clothing 
lose most insulation value when wet. 
Protect down garments zealously dur- 
ing wet conditions. And remember that 
the wet from sweat is just as wet— and 
chilling— as rain. 

So-called "waterproof but breathable" 
fabrics often soak through in constant 
downpour conditions that sometimes 
exist. Be sure you're equipped either 
with clothing that stays warm while 
wet or with clothing carefully kept dry 
until needed and feasible to wear. 
Hypothermia — critical loss of body 
heat — is serious and can strike any 
time of year here. Hypothermia can 
cause death, even when the tempera- 
ture is well above freezing. 

You must be prepared for wet and 
cold but also bring lightweight cloth- 
ing, in case of hot weather, and sun- 
burn protection. 

Kayakers transfer the last bit 
of gear as they get dropped 
off for paddling and back- 
packing in the upper bay. Both 
kayakers and their kayaks can 
book passage up the bay with 
Glacier Bay Lodge 's daily tour 
boat service. 


Extensive hiking, especially with a 
heavy pack, requires sturdy boots. Rub- 
ber boots are almost a necessity for 
getting in and out of kayaks. Carry 
moleskin or something similar even if 
you are not prone to blisters. Wet feet 
can develop sore spots. A sleeping pad 
will afford comfort and insulate you 
from the cold ground. A mosquito 
head net can be helpful when the 
insects are numerous. 

Where to Go? No trails exist in Gla- 
cier Bay National Park and Preserve 
except at Bartlett Cove. Carry a com- 
pass and topographic map— maps are 
sold in the visitor center, backcountry 
ranger station, or by mail— and know 
how to use them before you begin your 
trip. Solo travel is inherently more 
risky than group travel. Only the more 
experienced wilderness travelers should 
consider solo trips. A permit from the 
Park Service is required for all over- 
night backcountry travel. Be prepared 
for steep, rocky slopes, maddening tan- 
gles of alder and devil's club, vast 
barrens, and rivers rising treacherously 
in heavy rain or becoming torrents on 
hot afternoons when ice melt is greatest. 
Also expect beauty that will stretch 
your soul and likely haunt you forever. 

To be close to tidewater ice, go to 
upper Muir Inlet on the bay's east side, 
or Reid, Johns Hopkins, or Tarr Inlets 
on the west side. Lituya Bay and the La 
Perouse Glacier, on the outer coast, 
are also close to ice, but approach by 
air taxi is all but required. 

Delightful coves, inlets, and islands 
offering wildlife and plants in varying 
stages of colonization are available by 
the score as destinations, many with 
valleys or slopes that lead to high 
ridges and over into adjoining drain- 
ages. Put a pin on the map while 
blindfolded, and you probably will pick 

well! But to fit interest and energies to 
available time and experience, you do 
best to talk over options with a ranger. 
And read about backcountry access 
and transport in Trips Up the Bay. 

Making Your Camp Avoid camping 
on beaches bordered by bluffs or plant 
thickets where animals— from moun- 
tain goats to wolverines, moose, wolves, 
and bears— have established thorough- 
fares. Also respect the territory of nest- 
ing birds. South Marble Island and 
other islands are closed to camping, or 
even to going ashore, from May 1 to 
September 1. This is to protect nesting 
birds. Ask a park ranger about any 
other restrictions on camp locations. 
Naturally disturbed places, such as 
outwash areas, are recommended as 
campsites. Stay well above high tide 
line, preferably above the ryegrass zone. 

Firewood is not available in the upper 
bay. The only wood there is intergla- 
cial wood, sometimes several thousand 
years old, killed by previous glaciation. 
This wood should not be burned. Bring 
a stove and fuel bottle. White gas is 
sold at Glacier Bay Lodge or in Gustavus, 
but alcohol, butane, propane, and Stemo 
are not. Commercial airline safety reg- 
ulations prohibit carrying flammable 
or explosive materials, which includes 
all campstove fuels. So bring a fuel 
botde for filling here and be prepared 
to use only white gas. 

Finding water is no problem except 
on islands and some ridges and high 
slopes, but water for drinking should 
be boiled, treated, or filtered. Glacial 
streams may run brown with silt. Let 
silt-bearing water stand overnight to 
settle out and then treat it for drinking. 

Leave No Trace Respect other travel- 
ers by choosing subdued colors for 
your tent and clothing. Greens and 


grays are best. Where possible place 
your camp out of sight of waterways 
and other travel corridors. Pack out 
everything you pack in. This includes 
empty cans, jars, and plastic bags. Hu- 
man waste should be left in the lower 
intertidal zone. This is where it breaks 
down the fastest. Campfires are to be 
built only in the intertidal zone. The 
key is: camp without leaving a trace. 

Mountain and Glacier Climbing Spe- 
cialized equipment and experience are 
requisite to safe mountain climbing or 
to venturing out onto glacier ice. It is 
highly recommended that you register 
your climb with a ranger if your plans 
include the high peaks or glacier travel. 
The Fairweather Range stretches nearly 
5,000 meters (16,000 feet) above sea 
level, and scores of glaciers whiten 
various elevations. Spectacular climbs 
are assured the prepared, but you need 
to bring full equipment and knowledge 
with you. This includes rescue knowl- 
edge and gear. (See page 107 and Trips 
Up the Bay for logistics information.) 
Radio communication in the Fairweather 
Range is unreliable. Expect to be to- 
tally on your own and make your own 
support-party arrangements. The ter- 
rain here is exceedingly remote. Rang- 
ers help if they can, but even making 
contact is unlikely in emergency situa- 
tions. (See Precautions.) 

Kayaking and Boating In general, 
kayaks are preferable to canoes in these 
waters. Kayaks are lighter to handle 
and, because they ride lower in the 
water, less affected by wind. This can 
be important. A general lack of wind 
may frustrate sailors here, but there is 
enough wind to menace paddlers. Strong 
gusts may blow up at any time, so stay 
within 500 meters (a quarter mile) of 
shore and at the first hint of storm, 

head in. The routine scheduling of city 
living can be a booby trap here. Setting 
time goals and sticking to them may 
interfere with your trip rather than 
enhance it. Do not stubbornly buck 
wind and waves. Do not challenge fate. 
Go ashore, hole up, and wait. Once 
you have idled back your sense of 
urgency to fit reality here, you will find 
a peculiar emancipation— like return- 
ing to a time that predates and tran- 
scends the clock. 

All those afloat in no matter what 
type of craft should bring lifejackets, at 
least one extra paddle per craft, basic 
repair parts and equipment, and a 
Juneau tide table. Tide range approaches 
8 meters (25 feet). This produces strong 
currents that drastically affect itiner- 
ary and timing. You can get a free ride 
by going with the tidal current but be 
thwarted or swept back by going against 
it. Plan accordingly. 

When ashore, carry your craft up 
well above the highest seaweed and 
barnacles, then tie the bowline to a 
rock or tree trunk. Do this automatically — 
even on the outgoing tide— and you 
will never return to find your kayak or 
dinghy drifted off, with potentially dire 

Do not pursue seals, whales, or sea- 
birds in the water. Respect seal mother- 
and-pup pairs hauled out on floating 
ice. If you panic them into diving off, 
they may become helplessly separated, 
and the pup will die. By Federal regula- 
tion whales may not be approached 
closer than 500 meters (1,5(X) feet). 
This is to assure that park waters re- 
main a protected haven for their sum- 
mer feeding, but the regulation also 
protects you. Even without intending 
harm, a whale could easily capsize a 
kayak, skiff, or dinghy and could se- 
verely damage a larger boat. 

Seawater temperatures here are much 



'■*. *, 

too cold for falling overboard even in 
summer. Know how to handle your 
craft before venturing onto these wa- 
ters on your own. Kayaks may be rented 
at Bartlett Cove. Guided trips are of- 
fered as well. 

Private boaters need an up-to-date 
Glacier Bay chart sold at the back- 
country office or visitor center. All 
boaters are reminded that a permit, 
available up to 60 days in advance, is 
required for entry into the park from 
June 1 to August 31. Boaters should 
also stop in at the backcountry office 
by the dock for an orientation upon 
entering Bartlett Cove. Rangers can 
advise you somewhat about anchor- 
ages and courses. Extensive, specific 
information may be hard to come by. 

Classic up-bay anchorages are Reid 
Inlet, Shag Cove, Blue Mouse Cove, 
and South Sandy Cove. Wolf Point in 
Lower Muir Inlet is beautiful but ex- 
posed to winds and drifting icebergs. 
For additional anchorages, or for Dundas 
or Taylor Bay or outer-coast destina- 
tions, you will have to find someone 
who can pinpoint protected locations 
on your chart. 

Inside Glacier Bay extreme water 
depth, tide range, and rocky bottoms 
can complicate anchoring. There are 
no docks or mooring buoys. Icebergs 
may be a real threat, as well as a joy to 
behold (see Precautions). Beware, too, 
of silty deltas reaching considerable 
distances offshore from active glacial 
outwashes. Depth readings may be mis- 
leading because such submarine de- 
posits can have an abrupt leading edge. 
Running aground is the only way to 
find them! 

Prevailing winds off the ocean and 
Cross Sound are southwesterly. They 
may be fairly strong in lower Glacier 
Bay while upper reaches are flat calm. 
Intermittent winds coming off the high 

Day hikers, backpackers (top 
photo), and kayakers can be 
let off the daily tour boat and 
picked up again for the tour 
fee plus drop-off and pickup 
charges. Arrangements must 
be made ahead: only three 
dropoffs and pickups are 
planned per day. 

Page \\^: An angler proudly 
shows off his catch of a silver 
salmon beside the Dundas 


Author Ruth Kirk confirms 
itineraries with the charter 
pilot after she and her party 
unloaded their gear at Reid 

A raft party floats the Tatshen- 
shini River It Joins the Alsek 
River in the national preserve 
and provides exciting float trip 

peaks characterize the upper bay. These 
are not uniform in direction, strength, 
or duration. 

Getting water is no problem, provid- 
ing you have containers and a means of 
going ashore, but all water should be 
treated before drinking. 

The National Park Service monitors 
Channel 16 daily from 8:00 a.m. to 
7:00 p.m. during the summer season. 
Bartlett Cove park headquarters call 
letters are KWM-20. The ranger sta- 
tion at Blue Mouse Cove can be called 
directly by location name. Rangers are 
here intermittently, so do not be confi- 
dent of making contact. Line-of-sight 
is necessary for most VHF transmis- 
sion, obviously a stacked deck in fjord 
country whose high cliffs wall and seal 
off inlets. 

Self-sufficiency is the hallmark of 
Glacier Bay boating. Bring all gear and 
supplies, including those for emergency 
repairs, and an extra anchor. 

River Float Trips Where the Tatshen- 
shini and Alsek Rivers join, the water 
flow becomes triple that of the Colo- 
rado River through its Grand Canyon. 
This makes for one of our continent's 
major float trips. The Tatshenshini- 
Alsek river corridor comprises the only 
break in the coast mountains from 
Cape Spencer to the Copper River. 
Both guided and private trips are strictly 
limited in number. Several guides offer 
float trips under permit in summer. 
Private trips also require a permit. 
Write to the park for more informa- 
tion. The trip takes a week or more. 
Total distance is about 200 kilometers 
(125 miles). High peaks, closeby gla- 
ciers, and wildlife assure superb sce- 
nery. You end up at Dry Bay, on the 
park's northern outer coast, where pre- 
arranged air service meets you. 


Armchair Explorations 

Selected books, maps, charts, guides, 
and other pubHcations are available 
through the Alaska Natural History 
Association. The Association is a non- 
profit organization founded in 1959 to 
enhance the public's understanding and 
conservation of Alaska's natural, cul- 
tural, and historical resources. To ac- 
complish its mission, the Association 
works in cooperation with Alaska Pub- 
lic Lands Information Centers, Alaska 
State Parks, Bureau of Land Manage- 
ment, National Park Service, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Ser- 
vice, and other educational organiza- 
tions throughout Alaska. The Associ- 
ation donated money to help produce 
this handbook. 

If you would like a pricelist of publi- 
cations or information about member- 
ship in the Association, please contact 
the Alaska Natural History Associa- 
tion, RO. Box 140, Glacier Bay Na- 
tional Park, Gustavus, AK 99826, or 
telephone (907) 697-2635. 


Wilderness seems wilder here than in 
many regions where that term is used. 
And some potential hazards here are 
rare elsewhere. If you and your party 
are inexperienced, don't start out on 
your own here. Join a cruise or tour- 
boat party, or a guided kayak or float 
trip instead. Those with previous expe- 
rience, however, can expect an abso- 
lute high point in backpacking, kayaking, 
or boating— or a combination of these. 

About Bears Both black bears and 
brown/grizzly bears can be dangerous, 
although aggressive encounters are ex- 
tremely rare. You cannot outrun ei- 
ther. Don't squander energy trying. 
The best thing to do is to avoid a 
confrontation. Never go deliberately 
close. Use a telephoto lens for pic- 
tures. When hiking, be noisy, espe- 
cially when going through brush where 
visibihty is limited. Talk, sing, whistle, 
or tie a jingling bell on your pack. This 
gives the bears fair warning, and they 
will usually avoid you, given the op- 
tion. Stay out in open country when- 
ever possible, especially if you have 
noticed bear tracks, droppings, or dig- 
gings. And avoid bear food sources 
such as salmon streams, animal car- 
casses, and berry patches. Cook and 
eat in the intertidal zone and store 
your food (always in a bear-resistant 
canister) in an area well separated 
from where you sleep. Be scrupulously 
clean about your camp to minimize 

Near certain trouble will result if you 
get between a sow and her cubs. If a 
bear charges you, most experts advise 
that you first try out-psyching it. Call 
in a loud but calm and authoritative 
voice, not a hysterical screech. The 
words don't matter. ''Stop" and your 
favorite epithets are probably as good 
as anything. 


If a bear clearly is going to attack, 
not just charge in bluff, your best hope 
of survival seems to be curling into the 
fetal position with your fingers clasped 
over the back of your neck. If there are 
several of you, try linking arms and 
looking like a huge adversary while 
ordering the bear to stop. If you spot a 
bear, make plenty of noise and cross 
upwind so that it can get your scent. 
Surprise encounters are to be avoided 
if at all possible. A bear information 
brochure is available free at Bartlett 
Cove, or by mail from the park. Get 
one and study it. 

Icebergs and Glaciers Despite their 
beauty floating icebergs can be dan- 
gerous if approached too closely. They 
may turn over quickly or break up 
without warning. Added danger— for 
kayak or dinghy— comes from the waves 
set in motion by a rolling berg. 

Ice falling from tidewater glacier 
fronts sets off enormous waves sweep- 
ing for considerable distances. This is 
the most common danger from getting 
too close to a tidewater ice cliff. The 
National Park Service recommends 
staying at least 800 meters (a half mile) 
away. The waves set up may also race 
along the shore, threatening kayakers 
or hikers who thought they were pru- 
dently removed from the glacier front. 
Even a mostly grounded ice tongue, 
such as the Reid Glacier, may calve off 
enormous slabs and bergs. People have 
been killed in Southeast Alaska when 
walking close to such ice fronts. 

Venturing out onto a glacier is best 
left to the experienced and equipped. 
Ice remnants such as what is left of 
Burroughs Glacier are a partial excep- 
tion to this because they have mostly 
dwindled into reasonable stability. Even 
so, what looks like gravel may be just a 
thin veneer over slick ice. Last winter's 

snow may be hiding crevasses, great 
cracks like canyons, and moulins, melt 
holes that drop clear through the ice. 
If you hear the muffled roar of water, 
beware. The ice covering a melt stream 
is often thin. 

Ice caves along the edge of a glacier 
are always dangerous. Rocks embed- 
ded in the ceiling can drop, ice slabs 
give way, and melt streams somewhere 
upslope suddenly break loose and send 
a torrent sluicing through the cave. 
Seracs— ice pinnacles— may melt out 
of balance and crash down. 

When Afoot Meltwater rivers are tur- 
bulent. If they come from a glacier 
they may be so silty you can't see 
bottom. Cross such rivers with care. 
Use a stout stick for balance. Wide 
sections of river, usually the most shal- 
low, are often the best crossing points. 
Angle slightly downstream as you wade. 
Early morning crossings are best: lower 
melt rates then mean shallower water. 

In tidal areas or near glaciers, watch 
out for quickmud, sediment so newly 
deposited it is still goop. The surface 
looks okay but put weight on it, and 
the deposit liquifies. Poke ahead with a 
staff if you have any doubt about what 
you're getting into. Move as quickly as 
possible if you feel yourself sinking in. 

Hold to a compass course if you are 
bashing through alder thickets. You 
can't see out, and otherwise you may 
waste hours going in unhappy circles. 
Devil's club is an additional terror. If 
your necessary route leads through 
this thorny hell, don your sturdiest 
long-sleeved, long-legged clothing. 

When Afloat Floating icebergs and 
tidewater glacier tongues are the greatest 
hazards afloat, as described above. If 
you anchor in iceberg waters, such as 
Reid Inlet or at Wolf Point, consider 


your emergency action if a large ice- 
berg should bear down on your boat or 
anchor line. Know how to cut and run 
if your boat hook won't fend off the 
ice. It is better to lose an anchor and 
line than to contend with a big iceberg. 
Otherwise, do not anchor where tidal 
currents could bring a stream of bergs 
near you. 

With tides ranging up to 8 meters 
(25 feet), you must carry dinghies and 
kayaks truly high on the beach when 
going ashore. Then secure them well 
by tying. Similarly, allow ample scope 
on the anchor line and remember that 
adequate water depth at high tide may 
be unacceptable at low tide. You will 
go aground. 

Firearms Warning Firearms are not 
permitted in the park. If you have 
brought one, check with a ranger, who 
will store it until the end of your trip. 

Nearby Attractions 

Excursion Inlet An active salmon can- 
nery operates adjacent to ruins of a 
long-defunct predecessor. The massive 
timber frameworks of now-outlawed fish 
traps lie beached at the inlet's head. 
No tourist services are available. The 
inlet's western shore is in the park. 

Hoonah A Tlingit Indian village, 
Hoonah offers motels and stores, lim- 
ited dock tie-up space and fuel, sched- 
uled flights connecting to Juneau, and 
charter flights anywhere. There is a 
public telephone and a clinic that ac- 
cepts emergency patients. A cannery 
in the outer harbor buys salmon and 
crabs from commercial fishermen. 

Elfin Cove On Cross Sound, Elfin 
Cove is a roadless fishing village of 
cantilevered walkways and houses tucked 
along the inner reaches of a steep- 
sided, deep cove. A more picturesque 
layout is hard to imagine. Dock tie-up 
space generally equals demand on a 
first-come, first-served basis (no charge). 
Fuel, groceries, ice, marine supplies, 
and limited service are available. So 
are rooms, meals, liquor, hot showers, 
and sauna. 

Juneau If you're in Juneau on a blue- 
sky day, consider chartering an hour's 
flight over the ice field. Tour buses run 
from downtown Juneau to the Menden- 
hall Glacier snout. This pleasant drive 
ends at a Forest Service visitor center 
with exhibits and a nature trail. Allow 
a half day for this trip. In downtown 
Juneau the State Museum offers out- 
standing displays about natural history 
and human culture here. (Open daily 
in summer; small fee.) The Juneau 
Chamber of Commerce, on Franklin 
Street, provides a downtown walking 
tour leaflet. Highlights are St. Nicholas 
Russian Orthodox Church and the im- 


Skagway 's historic Arctic 
Brotherhood Hall must have 
one of this nation 's most 
intriguing facades. Here at 
Klondike Gold Rush National 
Historical Park restored struc- 
tures give a picture of life in 
1898 and after. Bottom photo 
shows, from left, Mascot 
Saloon, Pacific Clipper Line 
office, and the Boas Tailor 
and Furrier shop. 

posing Governor's Mansion. Juneau has 
been Alaska's capital since territorial 
days. There is a joint National Park 
Service-U.S. Forest Service Informa- 
tion Center in Centennial Hall down- 
town. Ask there for information on 
Admiralty Island National Monument. 
There are Forest Service campgrounds 
some distance north of Juneau. City 
bus service connects from Auke Bay 
and the airport to downtown Juneau. 

Haines Principal Haines area attrac- 
tions include Fort William H. Seward, 
Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, 
Alaska Indian Arts, and the Chilkat 
Center for the Arts, where the Chilkat 
Dancers perform. Along the river, north 
of town, bald eagles congregate in late 
summer and fall to feed on spawned- 
out salmon. There are private and 
state park campgrounds surrounding 
Haines. A road leads into the interior, 
joining with the Alaska Highway at 
Haines Junction north of Whitehorse 
in Yukon Territory, Canada. Haines 
occupies a traditional Tlingit village 
site. Recent history dates from the 
establishment of a trading post in 1878, 
followed by a mission in 1881. 

Skagway The Alaska Marine High- 
way, the state ferry system, has its 
northern end at Skagway, at the head 
of Lynn Canal. Many cruise ships and 
tour boats stop here as well. The pres- 
ent town was born during Klondike 
Gold Rush days in 1898, when 20,000 
eager stampeders made it their staging 
area— and the largest Alaskan town of 
that day. From Skagway, gold seekers 
climbed famed Chilkoot Pass, bound 
for Lake Bennett and a water route to 
the gold fields. Klondike Gold Rush 
National Historical Park today preserves 
the scene of their struggles. You can 
climb the same trail they did, nearly 


straight up via Chilkoot Pass. (Allow 
several days for this hike.) Scheduled 
bus tours operate on the new road 
connecting Skagway and Whitehorse. 
There is a National Park Service visi- 
tor center in Skagway's historic rail- 
road depot building. The Trail of '98 
Museum is inside City Hall. A city 
campground and private campground 
are virtually downtown. A small state 
park lies about 7 kilometers (4.5 miles) 
from the ferry terminal. 

Sitka Sitka is reached by air or aboard 
certain state ferries and cruise ships 
but not all. Russian traders established 
this first white settlement in Southeast 
Alaska in 1799. Here Russia trans- 
ferred title to Alaska into American 
hands following Secretary of State Wil- 
ham H. Seward's land purchase in 1817. 
Today Sitka's economy is based on 
tourism, fishing, and a cold storage 
plant. Campgrounds and a range of 
accommodations and services are avail- 
able. Points of interest include the 
Tlingit Cultural Center, Sheldon Jack- 
son Museum, St. Michaels Cathedral, 
and Sitka National Historical Park. The 
park features a totem pole collection, 
demonstrations of native crafts, and a 
Russian bishop's restored house. Ask 
in Sitka about the new Archangel Danc- 
ers performance schedule. 


Index Numbers in italics refer to photographs, illustrations, or maps 

Accommodations 112-113 
Ackerman, Robert 102, 103 
Adams Inlet 34, 84, 88, 120 
Alder 55, 56, 57, 60 
Alsek River 120 
American Geographical 
Society 43 
Aurora borealis 1 10 

Backpacking 111,119 
Baneberry 59 

Bartlett Cove 56, 58, 67, 74, 
Beach, Rex 20 
BearUO, 122;Black,/2, 13, 
17, 75, 84; Brown/grizzly 13, 
55,75,81,84; Glacier 84-85 
Beartrack Cove 34 
Berg Bay 74 
Bergy-bit 24,25,29,39 
Bering, Vitus 13 
Bertha, Mount 76-77 
Birds 74-81 , 1 10. See also dif- 
ferent species 
Blueberry 54, 58, 63 
BlueMouseCovel20, 112 
Boatingll2-13, 117, 119-20 
Brady Glacier 42 43, 104-5 
Brady Icefield 50, 51 
Burroughs Glacier 76, 80, 

Camping 112-17 passim, 125 
CanoeinglH, 117, 119 
Cape Spencer 32 
Capelin 89, 90, 91 
Casement Glacier 30-31 
Cedar, yellow 63 
Cenotaph island 13, 21, 101 
Charts, nautical 29, 1 19-20, 

Climbing 117 
Clothing 110, 115-16 
Columbine, red 58 
Cook, James 13 
Cooper, William S. 15 
Cormorants 38, 87 
Cottonwood 57, 61, 110 
Couverden, Pomt 63 
Cow parsnip 63 
Coyote 71, 74, 84 
Crab 90, 91 
Cress, bitter 59 
Crillon, Mount 43 
Cross Sound 119,123 
Crow 71 
Crowberry 54 

Deer 84 
Devil's club 60 

Drumlin 26, 28 

Dryas 28, 43, 50, 54, 55, 60 

Duck, old squaw 75, 81 , 87, 91 

Dundas Bay 74, 84, 97, 101 , 


Dundas River 77(5 

Eagle38,7J, 87, 9(^,97, 124 
Earthquake 14, 65-67, 69 
Ecological Society of Amer- 
ica 15 

Elfin Cove 123 
Endangered Species Act 93, 

Endicott Pass 84 
Eskers 28, 5^-57 
Excursion Inlet 123 
Excursionsll4, 119, 120 
Explorer 48, 50 

Fairweather Fault 65, 66 

Fairweather Glacier 61 

Fairweather Range 13, 32-33, 

43,60, 117; photos 7(^-77, 


Fern 60, 63 

Field, William O. 43, 44, 45, 


Firearms 123 

Fireweed52,54, 110 

Fish 90, 91 

Fishing 113 

Forest succession 60-63 

Fungus 55, 58, 59 

Galaup, Francois de, comte 

de La Perouse 13-14, 96-97 
Geike Glacier 777 
Geology 7, 13-15, 32-33, 66-67 
Gilman Glacier 29, 39, 42, 44 
Glacier, tidewater 46-47, 56, 
112; composition of 27-28, 
29-57, 32, 33; formation of 
14, 26, 28; movement of 15, 
35, 37-38, 43-48, 50-51 , 66-67, 
103, 110; water depth of 33, 
45. See also Icebergs, calving 
Glacier Bay 7, 13-15,20-21, 

Glacier Bay National Monu- 
ment 15 

Glacier Bay National Park 
and Preserve: accommoda- 
tions and services 1 12-13, 

120; founding of 15, 20; loca- 
tion 107, 108-9; regulations 
96, 112; tourist activities in 
67, 112, 113, 114; transporta- 
tion to 107 

Goat, mountain 84, 86, 87, 88 
Gold 20, 50 

Goldthwait, Richard 34 
Grand Pacific Glacier 15, 
Grebe, horned 78 
Ground Hog Bay 102 3 
Growler, R. V. 25-50 passim; 
photos 24, 29 
Guillemot 38 39, 75, 79 
GuU75, 79, 90, 91 
Gustavus 107, 112-119 passim 

Haines 124 
Harbeson, Buck 101 
HarebeU 52 

Hemlock 56, 57, 60, 61 , 62, 63 
Hiking 34, 38, 54, 55, 60, 67, 
80, \\2-\6 passim 
Home Shore 63, 99 
Hoonah98,99, 123 
Howe, Bob 48 
Hummingbird 80 

Ibach, Joe and Muz 20-21 , 
50, 101; cabin 100 
Ice, pan 22-23, 24 
Ice Ages 28, 34. See also Lit- 
tle Ice Age; Wisconsinan Ice 

Iceberg 39, 40-41; calving 
precautions 122-23 
Iceworm 76, 80 
IcyStraitl4, 15,27,34, 114 
Indians, Tlingit 13, 34, 98-99, 
101 ; setdement of 43, 63, 123 
Insects 74, 80, 87-88, 110 
Inside Passage 13 

Johns Hopkins Glacier 24, 

Johns Hopkins Inlet 39, 42, 
48,50,69,81, 116; photos 
22-23, 24 

Juneau 32, 123 24 
Jurasz, Charles 89, 96 

Kames 28 

Kayakingc^-9,39, 114, 775, 


Kelp 90, 91 

Kirk, Ruth 25, 26, 120 
Kittiwake covers, 38, 78, 79 
Klondike Gold Rush National 
Historical Park 124, 125 
Krill89, 92, 110 

Lamplugh Glacier 43 

La Perouse Glacier 14, 116 

La Perouse, Mount 14 

Laurel, bog 63 

Lemesurier Island 20 

Little Ice Age 14, 34, 51, 60, 


Lituya Bay 21 , 64, 65-66, 1 16 

Lituya Glacier ()\,64 

Lynn Canal 33, 84, 124 

Lynx 81 

McConnell, John 69 

Mammals 74-75, 81-85; 5^e 

also different species 

Mzps 33, 106, 108-9, n() 

Margerie Glacier covers, 



Marine energy cycle 90-91, 


Marine tillite 28, 32 

Marmot 81 

Mice, deer 80 

Minerals 20, 28, 50 

Moose 82-83, 84 

Moraine 28, 30-31, 38, 50, 58, 


Moss 58, 60 

Muir, John 7, 34-35 

Muir Glacier 8-9, 12, 13, 14, 

26, 35, J6, 50, 122 

Muir Inlet 33, 34, 60, 69, 84, 


Muir Valley 34 

Murrelet 78, 89 

Murre81,87, 97 

Muskeg 61, 63 

National Wilderness Preser- 
vation System 20 
North CrUlon Glacier 60 

Olympic Mountains 37 

Otter 87, 96-97 
Oystercatcher 75, 76, 77, 90 

Photo Station 3, ^J, 44 
Pine, lodgepole 63 

Plains, outwash 30-31 

Plankton 90, 91 

Plant succession 28, 53-60, 

63; photos 30-31,56-59. See 

also different species 

PoUock 90, 91 

Porpoise 9(^,91, 7/^ 

Post, Austin 26-27, 29, 65, 89 

Precautions, safety 1 10-23 


Ptarmigan 55, 80, 88 

Ptarmigan Creek 20 

Publications21, 112,116, 


Puffin 38-39, 78, 90 

Queen Inlet 53 

Rafting 120, 120 

Reid, Harry Fielding 35, 43, 


Reid Glacier 20, 43, 50 

Reid Inlet 25, 48, 50, 75, 81, 


Ryegrass 54, 56-57, 61 

Riggs Glacier 50 

Russell Fjord 32 

St. Elias, Mount 13 

St. Elias Range 13 

Safety, See precautions 

Salmon70-74, 113, 124; 

photos, 72-7J,90, 97, 118 

San Andreas Fault 32 

Sandpiper 79, 87 

Scidmore, Eliza Ruhamah 7, 


Scoter, surf 97 

Seal65,69-70,74,87, 9(^,97, 


Shag Cove 70, 71, 120 

SheUs 74 

Shrew 75, 80 

Shrimp 90, 91 

Sitakaday Narrows 1 14 

Sitka National Historic Park 


Sitka 102, 125 

Silvers, Doc 101 

Skagway 124-25 

Skunk cabbage 59 

Smith, Tom 20 

Snails 74 

Soapberry 60 

South Sandy Cove 120 

Spruce 54, 56, 57, 60-61 , 62, 


Squirrel, red 88 

Starfish 90, 91 

Strawberries 113 

Streveler, Gregory 69, 70, 74, 

84-85, 87, 88 

Tatshenshini River 120, 120 

Tarrlnlet26,50,60,84, 77J, 


Taylor Bay 43, 119 

Tchirikov, Alexis 13, 15 

Tea, Labrador 63 

Tern, Arctic 75, 76, 78, 79, 90 

Tidal Inlet 63 

Tlingit Cultural Center 125 

Tlingit Point 84 

Topeka Glacier 48 

Twayblade 60 

Tyeen Glacier 37 

Valley of the River of Grass 

(Chookaneidi')63,98, 102 
Vancouver, George 14, 15, 
Vole, tundra 80 

Wachusett Inlet 34, 53, 76 
WaterfaUs 63 

Weather 110, 115 
Whale71,110, 119; hump- 
back 75-79,20,89, 9(^,92,93, 
96, 112, 114;minke92, 9J; 
orca(killer)70, 9^, 94-95, 114 
Wik, Manya and Ole 25 
WUlow 54, 56, 60 
Wisconsinan Ice Age 32-33, 
Wolf Point 119 
Wolverine 88 
Wrangell, Fort 34 
Wright, Mount 88 

Young Island 60-61 

^GPO: 2000—460-794/00508 


Handbook 123 

The National Park Service expresses its 
appreciation to all those persons who 
made the preparation and production 
of this handbook possible. 

All photography or other artwork 
not credited below comes from the 
files of Glacier Bay National Park 
and Preserve. 

R.H. Armstrong 79 sandpiper and terns 
Tom Bean 4-5, 6, 8-9, 12, 16-17, 40-41 , 
77, 78 puffins, 82-83, 86, 104-105, HI, 

Bruce Black 101 
William Boehm 18-19, 58 moss 
Belmore Browne, Courtesy of Glenbow 
Museum, Calgary, Alberta 98-99 
Donald D.Chase 120 raft 
John Cossick 42 
Richard Ellis 92-95 whales 
John Field 45 

William O. Field, American Geographi- 
cal Society 44 

Gary M. Hasty 57 spruce bud 
James G. Hauck 52, 57 cottonwood 
W.S. Home 58 columbine 
Robert Hynes 90-91 
John Hopkins University, Ferdinand 
Hamburger, Jr. Archives 34 
Mark Kelley cover 
Ruth and Louis Kirk 24, 29, 36, 43, 49, 
56-57, 100, 113 ship, 120 plane 
Penny Knuckles 58 blueberry, 59 

David Nemeth 59 fungus 
Michael J. Nigro 59 cress 
Rollie Ostermick 59 skunk cabbage 
Bruce Paige 10-11, 22-23, 30-31, 

78 duck, 79 guillemot 

Jaime Quintero 46-47 

R.R. Donnelley & Sons 106, 108-109 

William Rodarmore 55, 57 alder, 58 


Greg Streveler 62, 79, kittiwakes, 

80 top 

Clarence Summers 57 spruce/hemlock 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 72-73 

salmon, 73 eagle (Ron Singer) 

Bradford Washburn 102 


National Park Service 

UkS. Department of the Interior 

■©^■. ^ 

As the Nation's principal conservation 
agency, the Department of the Interior 
has responsibihty for most of our na- 
tionally owned public lands and natu- 
ral resources. This includes fostering 
the wisest use of our land and water 
resources, protecting our fish and 
wildlife, preserving the environmental 
and cultural values of our national 
parks and historical places, and provid- 
ing for the enjoyment of life through 
outdoor recreation. The Department 
assesses our energy and mineral re- 
sources to assure that their develop- 
ment is in the best interest of all our 
people. The Department also has a 
major responsibility for American In- 
dian reservation communities and for 
people who live in island territories 
under U.S. administration. 

Glacier Bay